Saturday, November 7, 2009

On Following Directions

Young Girl 1892--Sir George Clausen (1853-1944) My daughter was worn out last weekend from being out late the night before. She was about to have another late evening, due to a friend’s party. Since she’s eight years old, I decided it would be a good idea for her to have a little quiet time. At this age, getting tired means getting our feelings hurt and crying—not a fun thing to do at a party.

“I need you to go upstairs and lie down,” I said. I was really very stern.

She nodded, pigtails bouncing.

Twenty minutes later, she brings a pair of scissors downstairs and puts them in the craft drawer. She puts a water glass in the sink and heads back to the stairs.

“I thought,” I said with what I felt was admirable control, “that I asked you to go lie down.”

“You did. But I decided it would be a good time to clean my room. It really needed it.”

It did. And her room looked absolutely immaculate.

She had not followed directions. But I was pleased with the results and so I let it go.

Editors have rules, too. There are things they’d rather not see a lot of. Many of them I agree with---I’ve no desire to see a big back story dump in a book. I don’t like pages filled up with no white spaces (which indicates a lack of dialogue.) I don’t enjoy reading a bunch of passive voice.

But some rules are made to be broken. I’m a fan of prologues. Especially campy prologues. I had absolutely no problem submitting my last couple of books with big old prologues at the beginning. No problem at all.

The editors? Well, they knew I wasn’t following directions. But they were pleased with the results and let it go.

Do you disregard different writing ‘rules’ when you write or submit? Which ones?