1. carsun1000
    Offline

    carsun1000 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2011
    Messages:
    158
    Likes Received:
    31

    Writing without the rules, good bad idea?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by carsun1000, May 5, 2015.

    I was just thinking if one can be successful as an author if one disregards all the rules of writing and just write as it comes to you. With no regards to mixing tenses, short, long paragraphs, indentation, no indentation, mixing POVs, punctuation, and all other rules, can one pull it off without anyone raising eyebrows? I also think it would have to be a very compelling to get any publisher's attention. Your reader friends probably will cringe as they read the piece. Any thoughts on this? Has anyone pulled this off yet? Can you refer such book/novel?

    Are you a conformist or you tend to break some/all rules?
    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2015
  2. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    What are these rules, and why hasn't anyone told me yet?

    The only 'rules' I know is 1) write something that can be read, and 2) don't write Harry Potter.
     
    BookLover likes this.
  3. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    If you are a best selling author, you might get away with it. If not, no one is likely to read past the first page.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I doubt these are the only rules you recognize. Sometimes advice on this forum makes me ask, why bother asking if everything is OK?

    If one read a page where tense was inconsistent for no obvious reason, most people would judge the writer as having poor grammar skills and the novel as not ready for prime time. Add walls of text and faulty punctuation and one may not even read the first page at all.
     
  5. Tim3232
    Offline

    Tim3232 Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Messages:
    223
    Likes Received:
    101
    Location:
    UK
    I think 'A Girl is a Half Formed Thing' was rejected by a number before being published. It was a debut novel written in an odd style - Here, for example, are the opening lines: "For you. You'll soon. You'll give her name. In the stitches of her skin she'll wear your say."

    It's a fairly short book but then there are a lot of half formed sentences. I think it won awards and sold well.
     
  6. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    The "rules" that you cite are generally intended to make a work more readable, easier to follow. If there is a reason to break one, go ahead. But conformity is not the issue.
     
  7. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    I can agree about tenses, and writing sentences that make sense, but I'm not too sure about grammar or spelling. What about writers that use a heavy dialect? Like the guy who wrote Trainspotting, or Robert Burns?

    It might not be advisable if you want to be published by a major publishing house, but it's not a 'rule' I would say.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Amazon reviews for this book beg to differ with you. It looks like it won an award (singular) but sales of the hardcover has a decent rating.

    The Amazon blurb says it won the Goldsmith's prize. The fact this is an English award and given @Lemex's comments, it suggests perhaps the English have a unique perspective on literature.

    There is a comment on Amazon that the publisher calling it 'prose' instead of a novel made a difference in how the book was perceived. If that's the case then one has to ask, does it follow rules of prose?
     
  9. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Depends on what rules you mean. Certain rules are there to keep things clear. Put a comma in the wrong spot and it can flip the meaning of your sentence. And once the reader mistakes the meaning you could lose him. He'll be going one way while you're going another. I think as long as you can write amazing clear prose you'd be okay but it's amazing how hard that is to achieve - even with the rules of grammar and the more flexible rules of style.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2015
    cutecat22 and GingerCoffee like this.
  10. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Dialogue and dialect are completely different animals from the rest of the book parts.

    This doesn't mean one cannot forego some grammar. Leaving verbs and conjunctions out for effect is one example. But that's not what the OP asks.
     
  11. Tim3232
    Offline

    Tim3232 Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Messages:
    223
    Likes Received:
    101
    Location:
    UK
    She won a £30,000 award for 'A Girl is a Half ...' and 'got away with it' despite it being a debut novel.

    Can't say I enjoyed it.
     
  12. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    Dialect does not need to be restricted to dialogue. And I can think of at least one American novel that doesn't use any symbol of punctuation more than the full stop. The Road by Carmac McCarthy. It's grammar is as striped and sudden, as blunt and as decidedly weird as the world the novel is set in. The fact it is up to the reader to put the commas into the sentence if they want is not a typical rule first time novelists are supposed to follow.

    Now I know McCarthy is an established writer, so what about Mark Z.'s House of Leaves? It's practically a James Joyce novel in the way it casually breaks the rules of writing, and that was a debut novel. What about Gertrude Stein? I don't like Stein's work very much, but it has it's fans.

    The OP mentions rules of composing an English sentence, and I don't think any of the rules he suggests are wise ones to break without serious thought. But it can be done if you know what you are doing, and it can be published in a debut novel, like House of Leaves shown.

    It might not be wise, unless you are some kind of linguistic, Steinian genius I would advise against it, but it's hardly impossible.

    An example of a Stein, prose poem:

     
  13. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    And here I thought that was the point of it all. :D
     
    peachalulu and Tim3232 like this.
  14. Megalith
    Offline

    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2015
    Messages:
    772
    Likes Received:
    309
    Location:
    New Mexico
    It would be very difficult to pull off. I'd imagine you would need to be some sort of linguist genius to pull something like that off. The inconsistency would drive readers mad otherwise.
     
  15. Anthony Graham
    Offline

    Anthony Graham New Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2015
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think the whole point of being writer is to go beyond the point of normal storytelling and experiment. Like instead of: "These trees look dead." Instead something really odd like: "Instead of leaves, we get plastic bags waving in the wind, deformed and ripped to ribbons. Oh boy, what evolution do we have next?". But there's far more past that point I've just mentioned.
     
  16. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Maybe I've been reading the wrong things of Gertrude Stein ( Tender Buttons - anyone? ), but I don't get all the hub-bub.
     
  17. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    I don't either, to be honest. Personally I found Alice B. Toklas dull and self serving, and Tender Buttons redundant, pretentious nonsense. But there is an audience for that sort of stuff ... apparently, somewhere. I'm glad they aren't anywhere near me, though. :D
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  18. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,896
    Location:
    Boston
    I can cite several examples where the author breaks the "traditional" rules of writing. However, it's important to note that these rules are being broken because they serve some purpose. Rarely are the rules being broken because the author feels like it (I suppose the only exception here is the use of quotes for dialogue).

    If you do break the rules, I'm sure you'll get the publisher's attention, though it might not be in a good way. It really depends on the editor(s) who reads your manuscript. Most editors tend to be conservative about this sort of thing. When in doubt, follow the traditional rules. They've been in place for a long time because they work and make things easier for readers.
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  19. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    The question is: Why would you? Just for the sake of breaking the "rules", or for a specific purpose? Like someone said, I think these rules you're referring to are there for the reader's sake, not yours. If you write a story about something that matters to you, wouldn't you want whoever reads it to enjoy it the way you want them to? To get the message you're trying to get across? If they're distracted by all this rulebreaking from the author part, maybe they'll put the book down and miss what you're trying to convey. Wouldn't that be a pity? I don't think there's any virtue, anything specifically "artistic" about writing it "as it comes to you", there's nothing sacred about your unedited words that would get lost if you followed the "rules". The reader doesn't care about how the story comes to you or how much you've edited or not at all. They just care about what you make them feel, what they take away after they've finished reading. And if their only reaction is irritation and confusion I think you've lost more that you've won.
     
  20. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    No hubbub, just commenting on the pat answer, 'any and everything is OK'.

    The OP question:
    I don't interpret that as, 'suppose you are a literary genius and you want to break all the rules and put some unique prose on the page'.
     
    EdFromNY likes this.
  21. sprirj
    Offline

    sprirj Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2009
    Messages:
    524
    Likes Received:
    159
    As above, it depends on what rules. I have a rebellious streak, and I decided to write my debut novel 'without rules' my main character, had no motivation and I had no plot, I just wrote as I felt. If a character had blue eyes in chapter 1, by chapter 2, they were brown. It switched from 1st person, to third. It was reality based, with moments of fantasy and then switching to time travel, but without explaination. Yeah, I broke the rules, and it broke me. 25k in, I realised it was 'a piece of work' in the most negative sense. Yet, I'm glad I attempted, all those rules I thought I could do without, I realised exactly why they were there. I learnt from experience.
     
  22. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    Yeah, I agree.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  23. 123456789
    Online

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,347
    Likes Received:
    3,092
    There are tools, not rules . Mentioned above are tools to help convey meaning to the reader (in this case really were just talking about the English language.)


    Unfortunately the sentiment in your post has some truth. I too often wonder about this forum, and the regurgitated "do whatever works for you," which means, ultimately, just ignore the tools that have been working for centuries, if you don't feel like them learning them.
     
  24. outsider
    Offline

    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2012
    Messages:
    968
    Likes Received:
    609
    Location:
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Try How late it was, how late by James Kelman to see a break from conventions
     
  25. AlcoholicWolf
    Offline

    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2013
    Messages:
    268
    Likes Received:
    141
    Location:
    Moldova
    Rules are there to make language and words work in harmony. Why make your life - and the readers' lives - difficult?
     

Share This Page