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Restrictions on Your writing

Robert Zwilling

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One of the reasons why there are guidelines is to provide literature that is readable by the maximum number of people. It's a commercial decision that means nothing if one doesn't care how many read what they have written, or a practical decision if one wants a better chance of a larger audience. If the style is based on originality it is likely to fail if it requires the readers to do extra work. That is one of the most generic reasons for readers not to finish a book.
 

sknox

Member and remember
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One of our rules is to write left to right. Down with rules! Or should that be left with rules? We all follow rules when we write. We only get mad about the ones we don't like. Or if we're just being generally cranky.

Having spent part of my well-spent youth learning to write poetry, I found I rather enjoyed trying to write highly structures--which is to say strictly ruled--poetry. Free verse is nice and fun at times, but for real satisfaction give me a rondel or a triolet.

Or, to put it another way, creativity and rules are not mutually exclusive.
 

Cathbad

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For those who say writers shouldn't make up words, I offer up the following:


JABBERWOCKY
Lewis Carroll

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
;)
 

Overread

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Rules, theories, ideas, advice, concepts etc.... These are all there for "reasons".

Many times people tell you a rule, but the rule itself is not the important part of the learning, its simply the summary of the reasoning behind it. The reasoning is what you need to learn more so than the rule itself. You can certainly learn and follow a rule pretty easy, but if you understand why its a rule; if you understand the reasoning and concepts behind it, then you are in a far better position.

You gain a greater awareness of the context in which the rule was created and why it works. Understanding that empowers you to be able to pick and choose where too use the rule and where and when not to use it. You might well follow and not follow the same rule within the same body of work.


In addition I never see learning creative theories/rules/concepts as restricting creativity. I think that's a miss understanding born from people who never learn the context and reasoning behind those theories and ideas. IT also tends to be the case that people with such views often only learn a very small number of these concepts to a greater depth and thus feel they have very few tools to work with; or in the case of rules that deny they learn far too many in isolation and, without the reasoning, feel as if they are being restricted too much.



I see the same thing in other creative fields, though I would argue that writing tends to err a bit closer to technical than many others, if just because well written works often get filtered through an editor who helps shore up the rules and structure. Photographs or artwork might well only go through a gallery selection, but not actual editing by an outside 3rd party as such.


So I think if you're feeling restricted you need to step back from just the rules and understand the theories behind them. With that context you'll see that they are providing structure and concepts to follow and situational positives and negatives.
There's also a lot to be said for style, a well delivered work which achieves a singular style throughout its length can break more "rules" because those breaks become part of its own inherent styling choice.



In the end writing is about communication and, more so than works of art, the communication has to achieve a fairly high base of understanding within the reading community. Ergo your readers have to be able to, you know, read your writing.
 

Robert Zwilling

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If the reasoning was provided along with the rules life would be a lot simpler. It's easy to find the rules, the reasoning that created them is sometimes hard to find, possibly because the perception exists that it requires extra work that is not going to be given out for free. It is also a lot easier to write up just the rules, all the explaining would create a lot more volume which literally isn't available. People can also be pressed for time so a summary of how things got the way they are is easier to handle. Sometimes rules are interconnected and make no sense if not all the rules are listed that go together making it a take it or leave situation based on a lack of understanding of what is being said. How does something apply to what I am doing can provide more insight than simply asking how can I use that something to get from point A to point B.
 

sknox

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WRT to Jabberwocky, one of my favorites is to read translations of the poem, and then reflect on what's actually happening there. Although it seems nonsensical to say there could be such a thing as a good translation of nonsense and a bad translation of nonsense, it's not nonsense. Native speakers will tell you what translates well and what doesn't, even with the nonsense words.

We humans are a curious breed.
 

HareBrain

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WRT to Jabberwocky, one of my favorites is to read translations of the poem, and then reflect on what's actually happening there.
Yes! When I was at university in the late-80s I came across some of these on the uni's internet. I'd forgotten this for years, but it seems the opening of the German one stuck ever since:

Es brillig war, die schlicte toven
Girten und gimmelten in waben

All I can recall of the French is the lovely word "lubricieux". I'll have to look up the whole things.
 

Mad Alice

From Earth; Mad House of the Universe
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Messages
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Don't use filter words... Don't use adjectives... Narrative voice restrictions... How many articles are out there listing words you should never use?

When you can use quotation marks... When you can use italics... Careful how you use punctuations other than periods!! No info dumps - ever!... Show, don't tell...

Grammar rules aside, does it seem to anyone but me that there are just too many restrictions put on writers?
Yes. It's simply mad.
 

sknox

Member and remember
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@HareBrain, I saw examples in Hofstadter's Goedel, Escher, Bach (a brilliant book) and was fascinated. Today, if you search on jabberwocky translations, you can find dozens of versions.
 

Karn's Return

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For those who say writers shouldn't make up words, I offer up the following:


JABBERWOCKY
Lewis Carroll

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
;)



Not to mention the number of words Shakespeare made up within his plays as well. Now, I'm not a fan of Shakespeare-I found his work, even within the confines of his day and age, to be long-winded, flowery, pompous, and more than a little showboating, but, he's an immortalized playwright with credits to many words made up that we use today. And here, with Mr. Dodgson's work, is another example.


Now, making new, made up words stick, that's another kettle of fish altogether...
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I think that restrictions can sometimes be a very good thing. They can push you to do better in spite of them, make you dig deeper. Think of all the great artists of the past who were working on commission or to please patrons, and yet they created works that still take our breath away centuries later.

But the trick is to figure out which restrictions push us to go further and which ones squash us flat right there in place. A lot of learning to write is about figuring that out.
 

Venusian Broon

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Obviously correct grammar and spelling is a necessity, but that isn't the point of this thread.
Not necessarily. Especially for spelling. A lot of books do dialect very well that have no formal or even archaic known spelling. And on the odder occasion good writers can ditch grammar for excellent effect too.
 

tinkerdan

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We all learn the rules of grammar in school--vital to communicating toward receiving higher education.
It is often assumed that we know these at some point in our development; however there is nothing beyond good grades that make us stick to the rules and after graduating--unless we have further education--nothing preventing us from distorting the rules to our purpose. With that in mind, it is often good to at least stick to the guidelines--at least for the type of writing we might be doing.

It's all related to style guides:


I think that it's most important to understand these when you reach the point of getting professional editing.
The Editors I have had have specific guidelines they use; and understanding what the guides are and that they can vary from one manual to another helps smooth the process.
When I did Xlibris they had two choices of guidelines that were being used by their editors.
We ended using the The Chicago Manual of Style.
I have at home:
The Elements of Style. By William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White
and
The Gregg Reference Manual, by William A. Sabin
And that worked out better than I'd have guessed.

When they ran across something they felt needed further explanation they would cite section of The Chicago Manual of Style for me to reference.

It's also good to keep in mind that for the self published the term professional editor seems more disparate(in what is readily available to them and within their means) and it's wise to have a better grasp of the more common style elements; because some of those editors are not going to catch everything. And that doesn't include the actual elements of story writing that usually only get edited by someone doing a more comprehensive substantive edit. I'm not even sure how much you can rely on the ones that call themselves book doctors; who should be covering everything.

Even if there is a problem following guidelines; having a knowledge of them goes a long way to making sure you are getting your monies worth in editors.
 

sknox

Member and remember
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Southern England? Southern Australia? Southern Italy? Southern France. Geez, no matter where you go, it's always those southerners, ain't it? :)
 

Cathbad

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Southern England? Southern Australia? Southern Italy? Southern France. Geez, no matter where you go, it's always those southerners, ain't it? :)
Wahl, if'n ah din' know bettah, ah'd think der was sumfin suspishus goin on a'heya!
 

Teresa Edgerton

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One thing that people seem to often forget is that it may be important for the writer to know correct grammar if they are writing about characters who would speak with impeccable grammar. It's all very well to use our usual local dialect and informal speech where it works for the characters, but not when it is very different from the way our characters would actually speak the dialogue, or express themselves in their thoughts if they are POV characters. (This can be an issue for SFF writers more than it is for writers of contemporary mainstream fiction, since we are more likely than they are to have characters who are members of the upper reaches of the aristocracy, or the diplomatic corps, or who are high ranking military officers, or people who are otherwise highly educated and trained to speak with formal correctness.)
 
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