So I read a lot, as most writers do, and I find that sometimes I’ll read as a writer and not as a reader. What I mean by that is sometimes I see all the things I was told NOT to do as an aspiring author right there on the page in front of me.
“If you want to be a great writer and get published you shouldn’t…”
…use passive sentences.
…overuse exclamations marks.
…have a first chapter where nothing happens.
…tell rather than show.
…overuse adverbs especially those ending in ly.
And on and on.
Yet I read book after published book filled with these things I’ve been told never to do if I want to get published, if I want to be a great writer. I think these are all good rules and I understand the need for them because when I read a book riddled with passive sentences I want to rewrite that sentence, but are these rules not for everyone? What I mean is are these rules pounded into the heads of burgeoning writers because we may have a tendency to fill our books with passive sentences, hundreds of adjective and adverbs ending in ly, and put an exclamation mark on every sentence that has a slightly higher degree of emotion? Or is it that if your story is good enough, entertaining enough, mind-blowing enough that no one is going to notice that you told us half of your story rather than showed it to us?
I have to say, one of my recent favorite books, an award winning, New York Times Bestselling novel, was mostly telling. A couple hundred of the nearly 800 pages could’ve been shaved off and I wouldn’t have missed it. Yet I loved the story that was TOLD to me, mostly through passive sentences.
So what’s a girl to do? Personally, I don’t like passive sentences so whenever I see them in my own writing I correct where I can—just not on here, of course-lol. I try to make sure that I’m following the rules above, but mostly, I try to tell a good story. Because when I really asked myself which would I rather read, a meh story that is technically, textbook perfect, or a story that didn’t abide by most or any of the rules but had me enthralled? I’ll take enthralled any day of the week!
What do you think? Have you seen a lot of these don’ts in books you’ve read recently?