I've been thinking of writing's rules and regulations a lot. Maybe because of my backstory problems with HOT. I've read somewhere (And I can't remember where) That one thing the RWA has done a good job at is spreading the rules of writing so well that editors are getting perfectly done books with no life to them. Now, they don't spread these rules themselves, but the local chapters where workshops are held, critique groups are formed, etc, have done a good job at getting the rules out.
Don't get me wrong... I love my Cp's. They are fabulous. But we do seem pretty hung up on the rules of writing. Let's take backstory first. This is one of those rules that every critique group knows about. Backstory, even a couple of paragraphs, slows the pacing down. Where is it written that stories have to shoot out of a cannon and not slow until the bang up finish? Whatever happpened to the slow build up of a book? I just reread Scruples by Judith Krantz. This was her first book, or her first blockbuster at least, and I have reread it so many times I've memorized parts of it. Almost EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER INTRODUCED has backstory. Fascinating, interesting, backstory. Even if the character is minor to the book.
Then there is POV. A one sentence POV shift, one that reveals more about the characters or story, is caught and reviled. But Nora Roberts does it all the time. Even in a single scene, the headhopping can make my own head spin. Now, I understand, Nora can get away with stuff others can't, but oftentimes, she makes it work.
Adverbs. I have taken to noting adverbs when I read, probably because they are such, gasp, no no's. Almost every book I have ever read has an -ly word at some point. I did read one romance that had so many it was frustrating, but that was also paired with stiff dialog and clunky prose. Maddening. But if we're supposed to write tight and an -ly word can take the place of an eight word description... what's the harm? Over use? Yeah. I can see that. But sometimes, it seems to me that an -ly word is the best word for the job.
Distancing with a "he asked himself" Okay, the idea when you are in deep POV is that the internals don't need to be underlines because they are pretty much always internals right? (If I'm wrong here please let me know) But tons of books use this on occasion. Sometimes it does seem right.
Never, if ever, use the word was. It's passive. I can't tell you the literary acrobatics I've done to keep from using was in a sentence. Again, this is a word I see all over other books. Do they not know you aren't supposed to use was? Am I taking these rules to literally?
Again, I am posting the disclaimer... this has nothing to do with my own Cp's who are very astute and usually right on the money. I do the same thing when I judge for contests. But are we doing the world a favor by maintaining such strict writing rules and regulations? Or was we paving the way for a bunch of books that are written strangely alike?
Another disclaimer, I am as yet unpublished... maybe there's a reason for that:)