Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Privileged Class

Have you ever driven with a new teen driver in the car? Oh my, they are quick to say: You didn't come to a full stop, you didn't use your turn signal, your hands aren't at 10 and 2! 

And these aren't spoken, they're shouted.

Ah, yes, training in the hands of a newbie.

The writing journey has many newbie moments. As information/rules/guidelines are learned and opportunities to critique other's work grow, the writer is quick to see new "errors" in every written product from cereal boxes to famous published writers. Here is a slightly exaggerated sample :)  :

Adverbs Thou shalt avoid all adverbs
No Gerunds allowed (those "ing" words), 
Passive words Thou art a weak writer if even one passive word is used, 
and a myriad of other "no-nos" 

(Then again, all the good stuff gets missed
 when looking from the newbie side of the road
 toward what seems to be The Privileged Class)

Randy Ingermanson recently commented on this topic. He said:

"Since there are no actual 'rules,' in principle we could skip right over this idea. However, I won't, because it is hinting at a common but nonsensical notion that published authors are somehow a privileged class of people who don't have to write as well as other people.

"The fact is that published authors, as a class, are enormously better at the craft of writing than unpublished writers, as a class. Yes, there are some published authors who lack certain skills, and yes, there are some unpublished writers (generally those who are about to break in) who write extremely well. But looking at the average skill set for the two classes, they are well separated.

"The fact is that published authors who fail to improve their craft are damaging their careers. It's not about following or failing to follow some imaginary set of "rules." It's about writing well.

"The industry still prefers excellent writing to crap. Tragically, there is a very limited supply of truly excellent writing. There is a pretty good supply of good writing, which by definition is going to have some substandard parts. This should be good news.

"Be aware that your writing will never be perfect, even if you get published, and once you do get published, you'll be open to the usual sniping that comes at every published author. You'll survive this like everybody else does."

What can we do when we stretch our newbie wings after learning a new concept?

** Look for the qualities that can be learned from the book.
** Understand typos happen.
** Not everyone likes a certain story, this doesn't mean the book 
wasn't written well.
** Some "errors" are not errors at all. 

How about you? Chime in with kudos for published works

I'll start:. 

This week, a client of mine had a book in her hand when she came to her meeting. She was a native, single, young mother. I instantly recognized the book: Lynn Austin's Hidden Places. The young mom said she picked the book out from a bin at her college because she liked the cover. The bookmark showed she had read more than the first pages, yet she chose that book to have with her while waiting in the lobby! To think, she will be reading an award winning  Christian Fiction book. How cool is that?

Quote used with permission
Randy Ingermanson
Publisher, Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine

Image by:

This blog post by Mary Vee.
Mary lives in Montana with her husband and loves to hear from her three college kids. She writes Christian young adult fiction (pirate tales, missionary and Bible adventure stories).

Her Tag: Stepping into Someone Else's World.

To learn more about Mary, 
visit her blog:


Sarah Forgrave said...

What awesome insights from Randy, Mary! I remember when I first started attached to the rules I was. I still follow them, but I'm learning to see the flexibility in them more than I used to. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Coincidentally this conversation happened on our loop last night, Sarah. Would love your take when you have time.

Susan Anne Mason said...

So true, Mary.

I think the advice "everything in moderation" is good. You can't have a whole book with no adverbs and no gerunds. Using them when needed for best impact is the key.

Over the holidays, I read an author I love (secular) and her Christmas book was great! But I did notice how many -ly adverbs she used. A lot! Did it make me hate the book? Not at all, because she used them well!

Guess that's what's important!


Beth K. Vogt said...

As an editor & a writer, I tend to love rules ... I'm all about getting it right, writing it right. And I want to help others do the same too. However, I also want to respect a writer's voice -- and if I have to choose between being right or respecting an author's voice, I will respect an author's voice (and ignore the screaming of my internal editor.)

Mary Vee Writer said...

I agree. Keeping the "all things in moderation" sure help when burdened with a rule. It's nice to have permission to color outside the box to add flavor. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Beth, you are sweet.
Anyone would be blessed to have an editor who respects the rules AND the voice. Sounds like a Jesus spirit to me. :)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

This is a great post, Mary. As a newbie, I'm trying to learn the rules, but also not be too confined by them. :O) I do pick up on some things when Iread books that I didn't used to notice (i.e. -ly adverbs), but like was said above, when it's done well, it doesn't stand out so much. THanks for sharing these thoughts!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Good to have you here today, Jeanne. I like what you said, "I'm trying to learn the rules, but also not be too confined by them." So true. You are doing well:)

Embrace said...

As a new writer this is one of those grey areas that is so hard to wrap your mind around. Thank you for your thoughts. And I always enjoy Randy's thoughts too.
Thanks Mary.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Oh, what a great post on rules! Here's my thoughts. Mostly, I hate them. Profound, I know. But there you have it.

The rule I break most often? No similes or gerunds. I mean really, who comes up with these things? There's probably enough writing rules out there that one would have to disregard 70% of the English language in order to follow them all.

That said, I'm a firm believer in learning the rules before you break them.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Good to see you Jodi.
Yes, I felt the same way, that is why I chose to do this post.

Julia M. Reffner said...

I'm in the place where I'm learning some of my weaknesses, but don't always think I'm successful in fixing them. I love the Randall Ingermanson quotes. Thanks, Mary.

Pepper said...

Great reminders, Mary (and Randy) I'm going to quote from Pirates of the Carribean here:

"The code is what you'd call guidelines instead of actual rules"
That's how i take them. Guardrails to keep me on the right road :-)
Not fullproof - but helpful

Mary Vee Writer said...

I like your thinking. Might up the percentage to 75%, though :)
Oh, incase any are thinking of lynching me...I teach grammar to elementary students. And yes, they need to follow ALL the rules. buwahahahaha!

Mary Vee Writer said...

I don't always notice the errors. Just the other day I read through a chapter word by word--no scanning. I read it out loud. Caught many errors. Then I sent the chapter to a crit partner....and yup, they found more errors. Good grief.

Mary Vee Writer said...

arrrgh. Advice from a pirate is as good as gold in your pocket...arrgh

Enid Wilson said...

I always live in hope, to improve my writing skill.

The Spinster’s Vow