"Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

Ursa major

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Not in one sentence, but yes.
It depends on what is meant by 'mix', and how long and complex a sentence is.

Consider:
While he was shocked at the height of the castle's walls -- no-one back home had ever dreamt of building such massive structures -- what put the fear of the Gods in him was the impatient way the shadows on its surface moved this way and that, as if seeking an opportunity to break free, leap across the moat and tear him to shreds.
Though rather long and somewhat purple, that sentence is using different tenses without breaking the rules of grammar.

What one should do is to make sure that one's use of tenses is consistent and (where appropriate**) grammatically correct.


edit: Just spotted TJ and me have the exact same number of posts. *spooky music*
Had, Mouse, had.... ;):)


** - Dialogue is an entirely different matter. (And the first person narration of someone whose knowledge of grammar is not as wide or deep as it perhaps should be could require some deliberately (on the part of the author) dubious sentence construction for effect.)
 

SPH Young

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As you'll have seen, John isn't around much here at the moment, as he's too busy, so you'll have to make do with the rest of us.

I don't know where you've been and who has told you all these things, but I'd echo Mouse in saying this is rubbish. The only one which has more than a nodding acquaintance with reality is number 3 -- mixing tenses in a single sentence is inadvisable to say the least.

Clearly I don't know how advanced you are in writing, but if you want to learn a bit more, then spend some time going through all the threads in General Writing Discussion in Aspiring Writers, and also look at the comments in the Critiques threads.

As for what's hot in fantasy, if you're asking for reading purposes, then we've lots of threads here about books and reading and what's new; if you're asking because you want to write whatever is hot at the moment, you're on a hiding to nothing, so I'd advise you to forget that gambit, just write what you want to write.


EDIT: Hex jumped in while I was writing.
It's interesting the different responses you get.

I don't want to start naming names, but at least some of those come from best selling authors. What's more, I have heard them said on more than one occasion. But, it should be said, I have seen them being broken by best selling authors on numerous occassions too.

I have always taken these things with a pinch of salt. If ever I am given any advice on writing, I go and look at what my heroes do, and go from there. If their writing sounds good to me, and if it seems to sounds good to others, I think it's good to go (within reason - we've all experienced our favourite writer coming out with a sentence that makes us go 'eck!', right?)

You can hear these things all day from seminars, and writers groups, and conferences. But to hear it from a man who has edited authors for which you have great admiration is a rare opportunity.
 

SPH Young

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Also, the question regarding what's 'hot' is also, in my eyes, a rare opportunity - asking a man who is an insider, I mean. The heads up on the upcoming John Gwynne book being a prime example. I saw John mention it in a recent interview and looked up some (admittedly still sparse) details. Even with the brief information that can be found, it sounds really exciting.

I've been finding it far too easy to go for classics as more of a sure thing of late. I feel as if I am more likely to avoid a stinker, but the truth is, I'm probably running the risk of missing out on some real gems.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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But to hear it from a man who has edited authors for which you have great admiration is a rare opportunity.
John hasn't been here for many months, so we're unlikely to hear that or anything else from him ... perhaps for many months more.



Here are a few 'rules' I have often heard said to be truisms by a number of publishing/agent/editor/author types. What's your take on each? True, false, or true sometimes? I'd love to know.

1. Never use adverbs. Perhaps one or two in a whole 100,000 word manuscript, but no more.

2. Never use any word other than 'said' to indicate speech. Whisper, exclaimed, and shouted are all out of the question.

3. Never mix tenses. If it is past tense, do not use sentences such as, "His hand felt as though he had plunged it in a fire now."

4. Never use exclamation marks.

5. Never begin sentences with words such as 'suddenly', or phrases like 'in an instant'.

6. Never use adjectives.
I'm not John, but I can speak from my own twenty years experience as a (published) writer, and join in the chorus saying that list is rubbish. If, instead of "never," there was a "be careful when and how you use" for each item, then it would be useful.

To say never to adverbs and adjectives is particularly untrue. Absolute bosh.

Never use adverbs. Perhaps one or two in a whole 100,000 word manuscript, but no more.
As if agents and editors go through manuscripts counting the number of adverbs. Really? If they're paying attention to things like that it's because your story and characters didn't grab them, and they probably haven't read past a couple of pages.

but at least some of those come from best selling authors
If they are really saying "never," it makes me wonder if they ever read through their own manuscripts after they have written them -- or, at least, outside their own little enclave of like-minded writers.
 

SPH Young

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If, instead of "never," there was a "be careful when and how you use" for each item, then it would be useful.
This is how I approached it. At least after some investigation/experimentation. I was pretty green at the time when i read the article in which I first saw these (well, more green than I am now - we are all still, and ever will be, students in any of our endevours, eh?). I went away and did some exercises where I forced myself to follow them. I didn't like the results.

But hearing it from an editor working in the field in which I read/write would definately make me review my position.

Actually, I have toned down the adverbs over time. That much I did take from the article. I'm not fond of too many in writing, and started to realise my own was littered with them

Anyway, I'm off topic. I should take this over to the critique section. I would say it is a shame John Jarrold is too busy to post on here nowadays, but it probably means more new books are on the way. Not such a bad thing in his eyes, I'm sure.
 

Gary Compton

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Anyway. Welcome to Chrons SPH Young. I hope your stay is a good'un. Why not introduce yourself probably over at introductions.:)

Don't worry about talking gibberish. I've been doing it here for years:eek:
 

Stephen Palmer

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One of the rules I tried to follow as a beginner was 'never use a word ending in -ly.' I've tried to stick to that rule - and it does have a certain relevance to writing in general...
 

Warren_Paul

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One of the rules I tried to follow as a beginner was 'never use a word ending in -ly.' I've tried to stick to that rule - and it does have a certain relevance to writing in general...
What's wrong with -ly words? :confused:

I've been told off for using too many -ing words before. The main problem was using more than one in the same sentence, and of course that -ing is an ongoing action over the whole sentence, so it has to be appropriate for the action.
 

Anne Lyle

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What's wrong with -ly words? :confused:
They're adverbs, and like all modifiers should be used sparingly. If you can find a strong verb that means the same as a weaker verb + adverb, it's generally a good idea to use it. It's not always possible*, of course, and sometimes you really do have to use modifiers to get your point across.

* e.g. there may well be a synonym for "use sparingly" - but in this context, plain language and clarity is better than a fancy vocabulary :)
 

SPH Young

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I suppose that (as with so many things) it's a case of learn the rules, then break them for effect.

???
 

Peter Graham

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I suppose that (as with so many things) it's a case of learn the rules, then break them for effect.
Pssst. Just to let you know, there are no rules as such. What there are is exceptional writers, good ones, average ones, bad ones, really bad ones and Nancy Springer.

An exceptional writer could write an entire book consisting of nothing but adverbs and exclamation marks and it would still be a good book. Probably.

For everyone else, it is a good idea not to exceed your limitations. Then, no-one will know that you even have any. If, unlike James Joyce, you can't write sentences that run on for twenty pages, don't bother trying. If, unlike Douglas Adams, you can't info dump in an engaging way, don't info dump. And so on.

What we call "rules" are really no more than words to the wise. Headhopping, info dumping, tense shifting, telling not showing, comma abuse, intensive adverb rearing and all the rest of it are no more than traps for the unwary. Do too much of it without understanding what you are doing and your work will look amateurish, unless you are so gifted a writer that you get away with it.

There is, in fact, one rule and one rule only. Write the best story that you can. That's it.

Regards,

Peter

Coming soon on kindle! "The Secret of Writing" by Peter Gerontius Graham (1 page. Westmorland Press with introduction by David "Ten Pints" Tyson). Download for a special introductory price of ONLY £50.00!!! A snip!!!
 

Gary Compton

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"Does it really matter that much, if the story, characters and world are interesting and engaging," Gary said sincerely.:)

Is it not the case of "Beige editors," justifying their existence.

Didnt the old schooll writers - tell - use adverbs - and adjectives etc - regularly:eek:

When I read I don't even look for that stuff. It sends me to sleep. I'm more interested in the Protagonist kicking sh*t out of the bad guy!!
 

AnyaKimlin

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My favourite ever novel is full of -ly words and adjectives. It also breaks other 'rules' like it begins with a three page backstory, infodump and its main character would come under the common usage of the Mary Sue term. It over describes everything, but I don't care and read it several times a year, every year. My goal is to write something just as amazing, banal and wonderful to read.
 

Anne Lyle

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So (he interjected confusedly) I can say something fast, but not quickly, and can ask fiercely or calmly, just not say it…?
I hope that was intended tongue-in-cheek, but just in case...

No, no and thrice no. The 'no -ly adverbs after said' rule is just another guideline - and not a very good one at that.

Please, please, take all these writerly fiats with a fistful of salt. Read your prose aloud and if it sounds clunky, fix it. Dissect the work of modern writers you admire, and see how they do it. Above all, use your common sense :)
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I suppose that (as with so many things) it's a case of learn the rules, then break them for effect.

???
No, it's a case of understand the rules*, then break them for effect (if you can carry it off). The worst thing is when writers can just parrot the rules without having a clue as to the reasoning behind them.

*Or, more accurately, guidelines


Gary Compton said:
Didnt the old school writers - tell - use adverbs - and adjectives etc - regularly
Oh indeed they did. But they knew their craft, and had a good sense of what worked and what didn't work.
 
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