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  1. #11
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: reading work out loud

    Both publishing and what was popular in writing were far different in Faulkner's and Hemingway's day than they are now. Can't really use them as a current index for what gets published and sells well.

    And most writers would do better finding their own natural style than mimicking what worked in the past for other writers.



  2. #12
    Ce Ce
    Guest

    Re: reading work out loud

    What Gary said. (Seems to be my mantra tonight.)

  3. #13
    Don Daffron
    Guest

    Re: reading work out loud

    I was using Faulkner as a point of discussion. Clancy and Grisham seem to simply tell the story and not worry about "the rules." As far as Faulkner is concerned he was turned down rather rudely by a publisher (The Sound And The Fury)and the man was a drinking buddy.

    I do not belieive anyone would ever claim Louis L'amour's Western novels to be works of art, but the guy sold hundreds of millions of copies in his lifetime. Dozens of movies were made based on his stories.

    Some of the most published writers use tags other than "he said." I don't very often. Maybe I should. Would not complain if I was a best selling author like them!

  4. #14
    Ce Ce
    Guest

    Re: reading work out loud

    Of course writers use tags other than "said." I've never heard anyone advise that all other tags are strictly forbidden.

    Like everything else, it's a matter of degree. Using something wisely works. Overusing or misusing something does not work.

    A writer has a box of tools to use, and needs to learn to use all those tools well.

  5. #15
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: reading work out loud

    I was using Faulkner as a point of discussion. Clancy and Grisham seem to simply tell the story and not worry about "the rules."

    John Grisham has admitted (I've heard him say it as recently as March) that he wrote his first book plugging a plotline into a Writer's Digest formula.

    That said, best-sellers usually get there by giving readers something different/fresh (which both Clancy--writing up Naval Institute war games--and Grisham--strange current case lawyer procedurals--did). You can easily throw Dan Brown into this mix as well as many others. Then a few others make good money riding their coat tails for a brief time until a new trend setter comes along.

    Grisham has never flaunted the rules. Clancy didn't flaunt the rules until he already had a deep fan base. In Clancy's case, this is because his first (by Jim Sutton) and second and third (by Larry Bond) books were completely rewritten (to the rules) by someone else.

    Perhaps there's just a misunderstanding here of what the "rules" are.

  6. #16
    Don Daffron
    Guest

    Re: reading work out loud

    In Grisham's "A time To Kill" he uses up two or three pages for off scene narrative to explain how a character got to be a judge. That is a no no.

    Clancy uses tags like: he observed, snorted, whispered, screamed - over and over again. L'amour used phrases like: He was narrower between the eyes than between the shoulders" over and over again, both in the same novel and in different novels. Like I said, some of the best sellers break most of the rules.

    How about stopping the action to take three pages to describe a female character's body parts? Happens all the time in today's novels.

  7. #17
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: reading work out loud

    So what? What does that have to do with what others should write? And what are these "rules" you are talking about? Whose rules? Where?

    Neophyte writers worry about "rules"; publishing professionals worry about books that will engage readers enough to open their wallets.

    I've already posted the Grisham plugged A Time to Kill into a Writers Digest thriller forumla. Can't get any closer to "rules" than that.

    These authors got to best-seller simply by engaging an agent and/or publisher and several million readers. There are no other "rules" in publishing. I've just finished a book that did all sorts of disconcerting things--some I thought were silly and many that distracted me--but Michael Gruber went best-seller with Book of Air and Shadows, so he doesn't need to care about anyone else's concept of "rules."

    When posters give critiques on WN, that's either the blind leading the blind and thus talk about it's a case of them being polite and pointing to conventions needlessly ignored--without enough of engagement with the writing otherwise to either make up for that or to make the unconventional approach work.

  8. #18
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: reading work out loud

    Should be:

    When posters give critiques on WN, that's either the blind leading the blind and thus talking about "rules" that don't exist or it's a case of them being polite and pointing to conventions needlessly ignored--without enough of engagement with the writing otherwise to either make up for that or to make the unconventional approach work.

  9. #19
    Don Daffron
    Guest

    Re: reading work out loud

    You are making my point for me. The "rules" are in every "how to write" book and repeated by fiction writing teachers every day. The goal of writing is total reader immersion. If the reader cannot put the book down something is working. That's my point!

    Read Jeanne's great post! It listed nearly all of the "rules."

  10. #20
    Jeanne Gassman
    Guest

    Re: reading work out loud

    Don,

    I'm not sure what you're asking. We can always find examples of best-selling authors who write crappy stuff. Some of them get away with it because they've developed a name for themselves. Some of them are just lucky. They wrote the right book at the right time (Dan Brown is a perfect example.) But if you are unpublished and unknown, then you need to learn how to use the rules effectively before you break them.

    I apologize if my guidelines sound like absolutes. They aren't, but they are a solid approach for the inexperienced, beginning writer. Sure, you can use dialogue tags out the kazoo if you want, but if you don't know how much is too much or don't use the tags effectively, then your dialogue will sound silly or stilted. You can also take pages to describe body parts or lean on weak verbs. However, the competition out there today is stiff. Why limit yourself with lazy writing? If you want to stand out, to get the attention of an agent or publisher, you need to make your writing shine.

    I see posts on here every day with writing that is "okay." The grammar isn't terrible, the story is so-so, and the spelling is solid. But-- These same posts still have major handicaps. They have tense or POV issues. The dialogue is stilted, forced, expository, or just plain dull. The descriptions come in repetitive adjectival pairs (sticky, pasty; hot, steaming; freezing cold). The writer falls back on cliches or favorite tired expressions. Since this is a common occurrence here, how often do you think an agent or publisher encounters the same sort of writing?

    I believe there are three elements of great fiction:

    voice
    character
    story

    When you can master all three of these, then you have magic.

    I also believe that good writing is a craft that can, to some extent, be taught and learned. You can learn how to use the tools. You can learn how to read your work aloud to help you edit. You can even learn how to tell a good story. As Cathy said, these are tools. They are just as necessary to the writer as the hammer and saw are to a carpenter. If you can't cut a straight line, it's mighty hard to build a house.

    As for your discussion of some of the authors you've mentioned...Faulkner and Hemmingway were writing for a different age, a time before cell phones, email, text messaging, etc. The same is true for Louis L'amour. The standards and expectations of fiction for the mid-20th century are not the same standards and expectations we have in the 21st century. We can learn from the masters, but we should adapt their strengths to our work, not imitate them.

    There is an interesting true story about Grisham's book, A Time to Kill. The book was first published by a small press in Mississippi and sold very few copies. Grisham bought up the remaining copies and sold them for a while out of the trunk of his car. Then he published a little book called The Firm. By this time, ATTK, was out of print. The Firm received a mega advance, hit the bestseller lists, was made into a movie, and made Grisham all kinds of dough. His agent and publisher were pressuring him to come up with another book--soon. Well, he had something in the works, but it wasn't ready, so he brought back A Time to Kill. That book suddenly became a best seller, was made into a movie, etc. Sit down sometime and compare the two books. The leap in Grisham's craft is startling. His second book, The Firm, is much better than ATTK.

    Don't waste your time searching for examples of what you think is bad writing. Instead, concentrate on improving your craft. Read widely and well. When you read, make a note of what you think works and why. Success isn't measured only by best-selling numbers; it's also measured by the effectiveness of the writing. Does the author accomplish what he/she sets out to do? If it's a thriller, are you on the edge of your seat? If the book is a romance, do you worry that the characters will find true love? If it's literary fiction, does the writing challenge you to think about the larger moral issues of humanity? Does the prose push you to see the world from a different perspective? If it's fantasy, does the world fascinate and amaze?

    Jeanne

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