There Are No Rules

Every workplace and country has laws or rules to help maintain organization and create clear paths that dictate how the societies or companies run. This produces efficiency. With a novel however, there are no such laws. I’ve done some research. And I’m proud to break some molds for you, if there were any.

As you construct your novel, I suggest you write what you wish to write and adhere to the three simple rules listed by W. Somerset Maugham below:

 There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are -W. Somerset Maugham

What do I mean by this? Certainly I am not saying to merely write as you please? Yes I am. And does this mean I am suggesting you disobey all grammatical rules? No, I am not.

Novels have always been about voice. What do I mean by that? Simply think of your favorite books or writers. Are they your favorite because of the topic they write about or what the novel entails? Sure. Are they also your favorite because of the style they employ? Most certainly. Charles Dickens still appeals to millions for that reason.

So what are some of the rules you may destroy? Let me list my three rules to dispose or employ at your will, but not without some reflection.

Exclamation points – Have at them! Some writers or experts might shun them and say they are childish and don’t belong in a professional manuscript. A work containing such nonsense could not possibly be considered literature. Really? Again, think about Dickens and in particular Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. She exclaimed all of the time. Albeit if all of the characters needed exclamation points it would be horrible. So, yes you can use them. Why? because Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling, Dickens, Bradbury, etc, do. Just be careful you don’t overuse them. Be sure they are there because they must be. Meaning, they fit the character, the scene, the point of the story.  In the end it is the publisher’s formatting you have to adhere to, not some pretend writer with a blog or hack literary novelist.

Adverbs – WHAT! Yes. Calm down, calm down. I didn’t insult the literary masters of the past. Did you read the quote above? Seriously (pun intended). There are times when I am supremely annoyed when reading a book where every piece of dialogue ends with sardonically, seriously, intentionally, hurriedly. There are ways to omit adverbs. But think about it. How many novels have you read where the character said something charismatically? I believe (and don’t take my word for it, pull some books off of the shelf and see for yourself, they’re in there) that as wordsmiths, they are okay to use. Sort of like the note above regarding exclamation points – moderation is best. You are welcome to use them. Is there an uncanny way of utilizing this rudimentary tool of vocabulary? No, there is not.

Qualifiers – These little devils are often overused. Here are the most common qualifiers in English (though some of these words have other functions as well): very, quite, rather, somewhat, more, most, less, least, too, so, just, enough, indeed, still, almost, fairly, really, pretty, even, a bit, a little, a (whole) lot, a good deal, a great deal, kind of, sort of. Most of these need to be removed in your manuscript, however there are times when they can provide clarity when multiple characters are involved in conversation. Again, these are everywhere in literature, so if used please be sure to do so in moderation.

Obviously I am a novice writer so I am sure there might be cries and objections in the comment section below. However, I would recommend that before you take a rule to heart from a so called authority or critic, go to the text. Review your favorite novels and novelists and see if and how they employ these devices. Survey works in the particular genre you are writing and see how they are used in today’s novels. Does the rule still apply?

Write well and write free my friends.



How I Plan To Edit My Novel

After I finish my book proposal (more on that tomorrow) I plan to get back to making my novel better. Some might think this is backwards, but there are things I’d like to clean up as I wait patiently (all to eagerly perhaps) for that form rejection letter.

When taking gravity, mathematics, and the concreteness of reality out of the way, there are about a billion ways to do just about anything. Here is my bumpy  and unproven road towards a cleaner fourth draft.

Step 1: Create Small Goals

When I look back on my novel there is a lot of work to be done. But I plan to approach these corrections and tackle them like I remodeled me house, one room at a time. If I were to read through for grammar, characterization, plot, and other errors simultaneously, I would immediately become overwhelmed by the plethora of mistakes. So I plan to read my novel several times to sweep over each one. Also, I will to do a simple read through taking notes first, before I do any hacking and whacking to my manuscript.

Step 2: Create A Plan

Not only can the writer/editor become overwhelmed with the mistakes that have been made on an early draft of a novel, but it can be nerve racking knowing just where to begin. I plan to print of my manuscript three chapters at a time and each night before I go to bed, simply read through 5-10 pages. 400+ pages can be a lot of work, but if I were to get on a role and finish 10 pages a day for a week, there’s 70 pages right there. And that’s not to mention lunch breaks at work and the occasional morning where I might have the energy to get up and knock out 5-10 pages.

Step 3: Identify Areas of Improvement

As I do my casual read through, while scratching some notes, I plan to identify areas of improvement. For instance, if I have inaccurate descriptions, if I forget a character completely, if a whole scene needs to be rewritten, a new scene added, or, as William Faulkner say if he were standing over my shoulder, if that little darling part needs to be killed.

Again, as I said at the beginning this is not a sure-fire way to edit. I don’t think there is. I think there are formulas we can use that might help, but it is what fits the writer best. The most important thing for me is figure out a system that works, and to do it.

One word at a time.



The Hardest Part Of Writing A Novel

More and more authors are expected to do more for their books. Promote themselves, creating networks and audiences before they publish, and of course, do some significant editing.

Editing, more commonly know as revising, is my arch nemesis. It’s the nasty reality of writing, the rude awakening that says, “you know how you slaved over your novel for the last few years to produce this draft? Yeah, you aren’t even close to being done”. Then it howls in laughter.

Okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic, but you get the idea. You finish your novel thinking you’ve done your best to have commas in the right place, eliminate the passive voice, and destroy the repetitive use of words. But, as you open the word document and begin reading you will probably do what I did when I started to read my finished draft. Groan. Sigh. Then let you head slowly fall until its rested on the desk in the realization that more work is ahead.

Now maybe you thought of it, but I didn’t. Revising, I believe, is the hardest work, work that causes you to dig even deeper into your self than a novel does.

Since I know only bits about the editing process, I do know it can be more of a refining period and much more than simply tweaking grammar. Therefore I wanted to pass on this video about refining your work and tips from a very good blog WritingIsHardWork.