Breaking writing rules

I purchased three of the latest books of L E Modesitt, Jr just before Xmas from in England with free postage to Australia. The price was cheaper than the cost of second hand books available in Australia.

It was unfortunate that snow stopped flights out of England so I did not receive the first sifi book, Flash, until 30th December, the second sifi book, Haze, the first week of January, and I am still waiting for the fantasy book, Imager’s Challenge. Hopefully it will arrive this week.

Modesitt kept his high standard of story telling in both sifi book and I will read them a second and probably third time before this year is over. Great stories.

I also noticed different things as I read.

His political setup was never explained, just shown through the eyes of the main character, who had to refrain from questioning superiors, but guessing truths from what was not said.

His technology setup was never explained, just shown through the eyes of the main character. Such as a glow surrounding a space ship before the glow and the ship disappeared. The word teleportation was only spoken in the final chapter to explain that the ships were not destroyed, but only sent to an unchartered part of space. The ships’ speed and fuel source was never discussed. Gravity was available on the ships but not explained.

His equipment was not explained, other than to say what each was used for, eg. water testing, energy testing, leaking radiation testing. The reader added all the extra details themselves, or at least, I did. It was clear the economy was based on the use of energy and every individual was responsible for using energy and was charged for that use, thereby keeping the wastage down and sparing the planet. In other words, a future look at the current actions of our government trying to work out a scheme to charge for energy use by the public to keep the co2 low in our atmosphere. All in all, well thought out.

He did not explain the tech of implants, only what they could do, not how they worked.

The only thing he did explain in passing, were the wars that changed the economy or political structure, moving world domination from one society to another.

Another technique in Haze was using flashbacks to a previous time every second chapter.

I noticed all these things because in all the writing courses I have taken over the past three years, I was taught to explain the tech, explain the political setup, only have one gimmick and a full explanation of how it worked, and don’t overdo the flashbacks.

I am still thinking about this, but, I believe having learnt the “rules” of writing, I can now, in full confidence, break those rules.

I now believe breaking rules are ok as long as you have a good opening, fast pace, keep the reader reading, without cliff hangers, use flashbacks every second chapter but date them so the reader understands each time and place. In other words, tell a good story.


8 comments so far

  1. Texanne on

    I hear you in your frustration regarding the “rules” and how they compare to the reality of published writers. Specially when the rules force me to write things that I don’t like and not to write things that I do like. Argh!

    When pushed about these concerns, most writing gurus will say that So-and-So can break all the rules because he’s an established writer. That may be true, and I’m going forward as if it is, but then, um, wasn’t Harry Potter the first book by J.K. Rowling?

    You may be onto something with that “tell a good story” conclusion. :)TX

    • djmills on

      Yes, frustration could be the correct word. What I figured is break any and all rules, write what you love, but tell a good story. I also see repeated time and time again, you need a good story, an active (not passive) blurb, an attractive cover and people will read your book.

      As for Harry Potter, well, let me just say there were a lot of gatekeepers that got it wrong with that book. How many other books are they getting it wrong with? Thankfully we have ebooks now, and the flood gates are wide open. (slight reference to the big wet we are having at the moment here in Brisbane) 🙂

  2. Shayne on

    To quote Miss Snark, good writing trumps all. I think, if you concentrate on that, and having a good hook in your query letter, you’ll probably do okay.

  3. Angela/Curiocat on

    Diane, I’ve noticed the same thing in some of the books I’ve read. The technology, politics, etc aren’t explained or details are skipped and pick up after the body or whatever has been disposed of. It’s hard to tell if the author actually has the information or if it has been edited. For myself I feel more comfortable in having an explanation even if I’m the only one that ever sees it.

    • djmills on

      Yes, I work out the world building, including politics, laws, etc but find most of it is not needed in the story. However, it can still be used in future books so happy to work it out.

      I am learning to ignore all the myths and get the story written. Put it through HTRYN and make it better, then get it on the ebook sites. It is still fun to write so I will keep at it. 🙂

  4. curiocat on

    I’m looking at comments on my blog and realized the flooding in Australia is in your neck of the woods. Are you doing ok, Diane? Has it affected you at all?

    • djmills on

      Thanks for asking but I am fine. After living through floods out Goondiwindi and Roma way when I was younger, I will sacrifice many things to save enough money to purchase up the side of a hill where ever I live now. I also don’t have the energy to move everything when one is coming any more, so better for me and less worry.

      Australia experiences floods then droughts, then fires, then floods always. Believe me, fires are worse than floods. This flood is just so wide spread it is being felt by everyone from north Queensland right down eastern side of Australia to Tasmania.

      I have a daughter in Rockhampton who is far enough away from the river to be spared. The ceiling in her granny flat collapsed when water got into the roof but she is fine. I have relatives in Grafton and Yaamba who are OK as the water got out to sea without breaking the levies. Not sure about relatives in Warwick yet, but think they are OK.

      The worst hit is the Lockyer Valley and that is very sad. They had no chance because the worst rain fell in two hours at Toowoomba and the water just pelted down the range and wiped out the valley. Emotionally I am drained, but am still proud to be Australian. Everyone is pitching in to clean up each house as the waters recede.

      Believe it or not, we now need a few storms to wash the mud off the grass so the animals can eat again.

  5. Angela/Curiocat on

    I’m so glad to hear you and your family are ok. It is ironic that after causing such a mess water is still necessary to clean things up again.

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