Last week, Richard wrote that rules can be stifling, and I admit, I may have gotten up on my soapbox when I was talking about realism in SF/F. Richard is absolutely right in that writers should indeed be encouraged to bend, break, mutilate and spindle the rules in search of a good story.
My only addendum to that would be…so long as they can pull it off.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a pretty hide-bound writer when it comes to craft. Part of this is because I’m a rank newbie. I don’t have a desk-drawer full of practice novels; The Daedalus Incident is pretty much it, and I’m obviously excited and gratified that I managed to get this first effort published.
That said, I spent 15 years as a journalist and another five-plus in corporate communications, and I wrote a few non-fiction books as well. I think my craft is very much informed by that experience, which isn’t that conducive to rule-breaking. I remember writing a piece for the 75th anniversary of the 1929 stock crash; my big idea was to intersperse my article with wire reports dating from the actual crash. The approval chain to get that done was rather onerous, and certainly didn’t encourage further innovation.
I was very comfortable with using those reports, however, and I think the piece turned out well. I was confident enough in my writing to try it, fail if need be, learn from mistakes and try again. Obviously, my comfort level with journalism-style writing remains very high. Fiction less so, hence rules.
I’ve tried a few exercises in breaking and bending my own rules, and since you haven’t read such exercises, you can easily imagine how they went. As I do more fiction and get more experience under my belt, I may stumble upon some unique expression that totally blows convention out of the water. And chances are, when I’m comfortable enough with my own skills, you might see it in print somewhere.
I’m very much supportive of writers trying new things and breaking the rules. I think the key to doing it is to be exceptionally comfortable with it and to not be self-conscious about it. (I know, right? Here I am, making rules on breaking rules. Paradox take me!) I’m pretty forgiving of writers who really try something new but may not get all the way there with it, no matter where there is. It’s usually worth the effort. And if it’s a neat concept with a good effort behind it, I’m on board. Good effort, can’t wait to see the next.
If the rule-breaking doesn’t serve the story, though, or even actively overshadows it, well, then I’m not sure it’s a wise undertaking.
Then again, that’s me. When it comes to any and all rules, I’ll be happily proven wrong.
Michael J. Martinez breaks a few rules here and there, most notably the speed limit on the New Jersey Turnpike and the “no refills” sign at various soda fountains. He does, however, recycle assiduously and pay his taxes on time. He’s also the author of The Daedalus Incident, coming out May 7. He blogs at www.michaeljmartinez.net and is on Twitter at @mikemartinez72, where he very occasionally flaunts the terms of service.Read More...