Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Have you seen The Hunger Games?

What did you think?

I, unlike some people, loved the book as a single book, not just as a trilogy. I didn’t think the “conflict felt contrived” at all. I didn’t even notice that Katniss was protected from hard choices! Which she was, that part was obvious once it was pointed out — what if, for example, the original hunger games had come down to Peeta, Katniss, and Rue? Or even Peeta, Katniss, and Thresh? Talk about tough choices then!

But I loved the immediacy of THE HUNGER GAMES and the close focus on Katniss and the world building — what great world building it is, and the way Collins skimped on physical detail didn’t bother me a bit.

So. Loved the book. The movie? I think it was fine if you had already read the book. Otherwise, how could you possibly know what’s going on in Katniss’ head?

When I watch a movie I like, nine times out of ten if there’s a book I’ll want to re-read it after watching the movie. Which I did. So that just confirmed for me HOW MUCH BETTER the book is. Though, don’t get me wrong, I thought the casting was good and the visuals were good. Katniss looked just right. So did Gayle and Peeta. Haymitch was fine. Cinna was all right. Caesar Flickerman was fabulous, just fabulous. FABULOUS.

Even so, even though almost every action was taken directly from the book — except that bit with the berries and the games director right at the end, and actually I wasn’t happy about that change — anyway the movie had a very different feel. A shallow, glossy sort of feel. A casual-adventure-movie sort of feel. A sanitized sort of feel. I think the viewer has to put the depth into the characters and the horror into world, I don’t think the movie on its own did the job.

But it’s not like I can go back in time and watch the movie without having read the book. So how about it? Was the movie great or did it lack the strength of the book?

.

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I spent all Easter gardening —

And by “all Easter”, I mean of course all weekend. Lessee. No little kids, so no Easter egg hunts (I do regret the lack of small children around holidays, but there you are — though I’m sure the dogs wouldn’t mind if I hid sugar eggs for them. Or liver eggs!)

Anyway! Planted the new astilbes that just arrived — I want to create a river of astilbes down the dry stream bed beside my house.

Folly posing at the beginning of the dry stream bed

That stream bed continues around the corner of the house and right down through the yard, past the fence and down the hill. The rocks turn from nice pretty round manicured rocks to big rough boulders, because luckily a neighbor has a small bulldozer which we used to move really big rocks into place just after the house was finished.

I’ll take a picture of the astilbes when they’re up, though they’ll be small this year. Also I thought about what else to plant down along that stream bed, but of course thinking doesn’t count. Plus the nursery accidentally sent me a Chaenomeles ‘Cameo’, which is not what I ordered. Naturally they’re sending the shrub I actually ordered and naturally they’re allowing me to keep the flowering quince, which I am not a huge fan of flowering quince, but if I were going to get one? It would in fact be ‘Cameo.’ So I wandered around looking for a place to put it and finally planted it over to the side of the flowers bordering the orchard. If it’s happy there and looks nice, maybe I’ll get a couple more to keep it company.

I moved the poor little climbing hydrangea vine. Its tree died. For no reason at all. Just poof! Dead. A hickory, maybe thirty or forty years old. We’ve had the odd tree die for no reason before — a couple really big hickories and a few young oaks, like thirty years old, and two perfectly fine willows. Sometimes mysterious things happen. But why to a tree where I planted a somewhat tricky and very slow-growing vine? That was just unfair. Luckily the vine is young, but it hurt me to cut off all its tendrils and hack it out of the ground. I hope it survives and recovers and starts up its new host tree. It’d be nice to see it flower before I die of old age.

But I can plant a new tree where the hickory used to be! That part will be fun! But what? A dove tree? A silverbell? A kousa dogwood? Maybe even a paperbark maple? Choices, choices . . . my life is so tough, having to narrow down the list to just one! Maybe there’s room around the place for all four if I just walk around and stare at the landscape long enough?

Too much shade and too dry for anything demanding

But doesn’t this give a great sense of space? We’re moving the pathway that used to run through this area because obviously the Vinca minor vines are eating the old pathway. Dad built that gazebo.

Check out the other side of this area as you come around my parent’s house:

These spirea? They’re ordinary Vanhoutte spirea, an excellent choice. These particular shrubs are cuttings off the bush that my grandfather planted for my grandmother when they got married. Isn’t that something? I took several more cuttings this spring to extend the white white white blizzard of flowers down farther toward the pond.

Back over at my place, I dug a bed for the kerria cuttings I made last year. I’ll move ’em as soon as they stop flowering or next week, whichever comes first. Love those things. Hard to complain about a really easy shrub that puts on a show you can see from 100 feet away! I have plans to make a lot more cuttings ASAP, which is why the established cuttings need to move. I’ve got the ordinary double, ‘Flora Plena’, I think.

Weeded, of course.

The low-growing stuff in front will produce white upward-facing flowers soon, and the daisies behind the Japanese maple will flower any day now, and I should take another picture at that point because it’s going to look great! Especially with all the weeds out!

Got all the big weeds out of the butterfly garden in the dog yard, too. Much quicker to write that sentence than do it, I assure you. The butterfly plants are out there not so much for me but for the critters, which is why the yard gets called the dog yard rather than just the back yard. I don’t worry about holes getting dug out there or whatever, either. Cavaliers love chasing butterflies, hence the butterfly garden is out there. Also! Transplanted some butterfly bush seedlings that were not in a convenient spot. Now re-mulching the whole area (also takes longer than you’d think) and thinking about adding a few more butterfly plants out there. Not sure what. Thinking’s cheap. The buy-it-now list tends to shrink when I look at the actual prices of plants.

Tied up the peas in the veggie garden.

The garden won't look this neat and trim in August, believe me.

That’s a polyantha rose in the center, ‘Marie Pavie’, a fabulous pale-pink highly scented rose that appears to be entirely immune to rose rosette, because man have we lost a lot of roses to rose rosette. But not this one.

Also spent time snarling about the weather, which was fabulous but is predicted to turn chilly and thus I am prevented from planting the summer seeds — squash, melons, okra (I like okra, okay?), beans. We’re supposedly at risk of a frost tonight. I trust it won’t happen. There’re thousands of baby apricots and cherries and plums and peaches, so frost would be bad. Luckily we’re up on a hill, so in fact we should stay a few degrees warmer than down below. Plus baby apricots are tougher than you’d think. We’ll see!

And ALL THAT is why I did not touch my computer all weekend! So no writing taking place just now! After the major gardening push or after school gets out, I promise I will get back to work! On something . . .

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An entertaining defense of a bad book, but I don’t buy it

I found this at Pub Rants, which you probably already know is agent Kristen Nelson’s blog. I gather it was a comment left in the previous post, but I didn’t go read through the comments, so I won’t swear to it. Anyway, check it out:

I’ll man up. I read the hell out of it [FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY, which apparently started as a piece of erotic fanfic]. All three installments in two and a half days. 800,000 words. BOOM. Just like that. I think I gave it four stars on Goodreads or something.



And here’s why: 

I couldn’t put it down.



True, it’s technically a mess. It’s randomly punctuated. The dialogue is all over the place. The characters are bipolar. The sex is vanilla. Typos abound (at one point Christian stared at Ana like “a bacon in the night” which made a weird sort of sense, actually). Ana has this really weird habit of doing figure skating jumps off gymnastics apparatuses….



Here’s what I think people don’t understand: Good hardly ever factors into popular or entertaining.

And then the commenter goes on to explain what she loved about this book and how little the poor writing bothered her. And that’s fine. I don’t care if people love books even though they’re poorly written and hideously edited. Much.

Except really I guess I kind of do mind. Because if punctuation is random but that doesn’t bother you, and typos abound but that doesn’t bother you, either, then, well, I guess the fact that you don’t care does bother me. Not so much because of what it says about you as a reader, though I think I would actually be happier if all readers everywhere were pickier. No.

I care because of what the reader’s lack of discrimination says to the author. And what it says to the author is: It’s okay to be lazy. It’s okay to be a slob. It’s all right if you don’t know the rules — just throw punctuation in any old place, no on cares! Sure your writing will be less effective and your readers will often be confused and have to figure out what you mean — but whatever! Close enough!

And I hate that. I think it’s insulting to your readers to not bother to edit your manuscript. I think it’s insulting to be too lazy to bother trying to put out the best book you could produce. And if your book is popular despite the fact that it’s a mess? That is nice for you but it is more than you deserve and you should be ashamed to blow off your readers that way.

Humph. Mood: Grouchy. I’m going to go eat chocolate and read something that was written BEAUTIFULLY and has EVERY SINGLE COMMA in exactly the right place.

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And Cake! / Blog

Puppy pics! And cake!

Puppy G made it up onto her feet this weekend! Woo hoo!

I was actually a bit concerned about this because the puppy was about a week late to start walking. One does expect a puppy to make it up EVENTUALLY unless she is a “swimmer”, which is a problem way different from (and much worse, and often confused with) just being too heavy. MY puppy was fine, only fat fat fat and lacking in hind-leg strength.

I did two things to help Puppy G get up:

1) Used a terry cloth surface to give her better traction than the smooth absorbent pads I usually use in the whelping box and placed rolled-up towels under the surface to give her hills and valleys to crawl over so she would build muscle strength in her hind legs, and

2) Every single time I noticed Kenya going into the box to nurse, I would let the puppy start nursing and then move her the full length of the whelping box and make her crawl back to her mom. My policy was: if you are not hungry enough to crawl back over there, you are not hungry. After all, getting a little less to eat would only be a plus for this puppy!

And it worked! She was up at three weeks and two days, just about exactly what I’ve seen before for heavy singleton puppies. If she hadn’t been up by Sunday, I was going to start swimming her in a tub of warm water to help her exercise those legs, but it wasn’t necessary, so I am happy.

This is Puppy G at one day! She weighed 4.25 oz.

This is Puppy G yesterday! She weighted 2 lbs 8.0 oz.

Quite a difference, huh? The limbs are so pink in the just-born picture because she was too premature to have a full coat. In fact, it’s amazing she had so much hair and such dark pigment. She doesn’t look like a full-term puppy, but closer than she had any right to.

And those stuffed animals she has in the box with her now are her “siblings”. She likes the lion toy best. She is active enough to spend ten minutes or so at a time playing, so I try to make the lion toy “play with her” several times a day. It even nips back, but only very gently. Soon Puppy G will be steady enough to really benefit from playing with Folly (four months old) and Dara (two years and my very best and gentlest babysitter).

I’m thinking of naming this puppy Anara Give Me A Break for her show name, btw, and the name I like the best for a call name? It’s Lithuanian — Giedre. Pronounced GYEH-dray. I think I could learn to say that (“Giedre! Come!” it sounds all right) and doesn’t the word look neat? Unusual and distinctive. Plus, the semi-famous Giedre right now is a Lithaunian model (I found out while goggling pronunciation). Naming a show dog after a model is perfectly reasonable.

I celebrated the puppy walking by baking a cake! (Seriously — I promised myself I would try out this keen new recipe the day the puppy got up on her feet).

This started as a Moss Rose Cake and I didn’t make very many changes. (You know, I always thought I followed recipes until I started posting some? And I was just wrong, because actually I almost never follow the recipe all the way through. It took me by surprise.)

Anyway, the cake!

(Mostly) Moss Rose Cake

This is a sponge cake, not a butter cake. If you do it right, you’ll get a light, airy cake that sort of seems like a cross between a normal cake and an angel food cake. The original Moss Rose cake uses almond extract, but since you’re using a coconut-orange filling? I thought it made sense to use coconut and orange extracts instead. Also! Please notice that you need to put the filling ingredients together ahead of time!

Filling:

3 C sweetened flaked coconut
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
4 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp sugar

Cake:

4 eggs
2 C sugar
1 C hot milk — I actually used almond milk because I had some that needed to get used up, and it worked just fine, but I wouldn’t actually suggest it or anything. Just FYI.
1/4 C vegetable oil
2 C cake flour
2 tsp baking powder — which not all sponge cakes use, but it does help guarantee lift
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coconut extract — I would use 1/2 if I did it again
1/4 tsp orange extract — I would keep this at 1/4

Frosting:

1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 C water
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp coconut extract
1/4 tsp orange extract

Combine the filling ingredients and chill overnight.

Now, beat the eggs until frothy. Beat in the sugar and beat until thick, like four minutes or so. Combine the milk and oil and have that ready. Combine the dry ingredients and have that ready. Beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Beat in half the milk mixture. Repeat, ending with the last third of the flour mixture. Beat in extracts. Pour into 3 8″ or 2 9″ cake pans (it’s best to line them with circles of parchment paper and spray the circles with baking spray). Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, a bit less if you’re using the larger cake pans. I took them out when a tester came out of the center with a few moist crumbs stuck to it, and that was perfect.

Let the cakes cool ten minutes and turn out onto racks. Peel off the parchment. Cool.

Make the frosting: Mom commented that this is like seven-minute frosting. What it reminded me of was making marshmallows. It’s VERY sweet, and obviously you won’t need it all if you’re making a two-layer cake, but I didn’t want to deal with cutting the amount down (how do you cut the recipe by a third when you’re using two eggs?), so I made the full amount. Anyway!

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan to 240 degrees. While you wait, beat the egg whites just until frothy. When the syrup is hot enough, pour it into the egg whites in a thin stream while beating on medium speed. Then beat on high until quite stiff peaks form. I didn’t beat it quite long enough and the frosting showed a distinct tendency to ooze gently down the sides of the cake, so don’t get bored and quit early. I bet it’ll take at least eight to ten minutes to beat it till stiff. When you think you’ve beaten it enough, beat in the extracts.

Assemble the cake: Put the first layer on a platter and spread with frosting. Sprinkle with about a cup of the filling. Repeat, so there will be coconut-orange filling on the top of the cake. Frost the sides of the cake. I chilled the cake to help set the frosting and make it easier to slice the cake, but I don’t know that you’d need to. Like all cakes, it’s better eaten at room temp rather than cold.

The frosting is getting a little crackly crust in places after being stored overnight in the fridge, so I don’t know, you might want to make this when there’s enough people around to eat basically the whole thing the same day it was made. People with a serious sweet tooth could also help you take care of any extra frosting you might have! It’s a little over the top for me!

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Fun links I just discovered —

I clicked on this link because it said something about perfect sentences. Finding Calvin and Hobbes was a surprise! My personal favorite was Playing Frankenstein With Words. Click through and see which one you like best!

THE INTERN has a post up about social media and whether doing stuff online actually translates to book sales. Now, she refers to a person who did TONS of social media stuff for a while and then quit cold and her book sales didn’t change. Obviously what we really need is a time machine so that this exact same author could launch her book the other way around: no online presence for six months and then TONS of social media stuff. Alas, that’s unlikely. Maybe THE INTERN will find a counter example which is at least roughly comparable to the other-way-round example.

THE INTERN also asked: how many book have you bought lately as a result of online social media? And this is hard to answer because what counts as social? Because if book review blogs do, then for me the answer would be LOTS. Or if book review blogs don’t count, then VERY FEW. But my online social thing is limited to a few twitter posts a day and a little cruising through the book-related blogosphere.

I thought this post was a nice reminder of what NOT to focus on, speaking of online stuff and writing. “Unhitch Your Wagon From the Stars” — meaning, review stars! I need to remind myself of that. I’m good at dwelling on good reviews and not bad ones, but not so good at truly IGNORING bad ones. Yet, you know, you’re never going to have EVERYBODY love your book, so probably not the best thing to pay attention to.

On a totally different note! Have you ever seen a cooler infographic than this? It has nothing to do with writing or fiction — it’s a graphic showing about a billion “alternative medicine” treatments — vitamins, herbs, whatever — according to evidence that the thing helps the condition and also according to popularity. Naturally it won’t surprise you to find out that popularity has little to do with evidence. Hover over a bubble to see what the herb is supposed to treat — click on a bubble to get the link to the evidence that it is beneficial (and if there’s no evidence, there’s no link).

The only thing I take is vitamin D, btw. Well, and dark chocolate. Naturally I only eat chocolate for medicinal reasons.

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Yep, still spring —

So I’m planting more beets (for Mom; I hate beets) and putting the trellis up for the peas and wishing it was time to start squashes and melons and corn and all that good stuff.

Also, spent all day yesterday transplanting the heucheras and astilbes that last year were buried underneath hostas that got bigger than expected. This year everybody should have room to stretch out.

Weeding is neverending. Removing all the dead stems from the chrysanthemums and sedums and everything just SEEMS like a neverending chore, but weeding really IS.

New plants are going to arrive shortly — I ordered a ‘Butterfly’ magnolia and some ‘Honeycomb’ buddleias and more astilbes and, I don’t know, some other stuff.

Also! My friend Deb talked me into entering two of my girls in rally and obedience at the CKCSC specialty in Chicago in three weeks! I haven’t worked with them at all in about eight months! But Deb is right, it’s important to support the performance stuff at the Cavalier specialties. Just hope my girls don’t make me look like an idiot. I’m entering the most experienced ones, so hopefully they’ll both polish off another one or two titles each so I can brag about them.

Also! I got stuck on the ms I was working on and haven’t touched it in a week, and honestly, does it sound like I have time and energy to work on something?

But in fact I am sticking to reading books I have read before and don’t find that compelling. And I’ve put the one project aside and am starting to think about something else. So probably in the coming week I really will start doing something productive. Maybe. Probably. Maybe. We’ll see! I’m thinking about a brand-new YA. I think I kinda have the opening scene in my head. Maybe I’ll open up a new file and just see if it flows . . .

Meanwhile! Back to weeding. Gotta clear out that bed by the driveway where I usually grow annuals. What an eyesore right now! I want something beautiful to look at out my front windows — preferably before the peonies and rugosa roses start blooming.

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This is kinda cool —

An infographic from Goodreads, showing the popularity of dystopian fiction.

The graphic is here.

Now, a question immediately arises: Is it true that dystopian fiction is super-popular right now? Or is it possible that because THE HUNGER GAMES was such a breakaway hit (and deserved to be), and because of a handful of other successful, popular dystopian titles published around the same time . . . we are now seeing a major trend to DESCRIBE a book as dystopian? A book that might very well simply have been called “science fiction” five or ten years ago?

How about INCARCERON? Dystopia? Or SF? (Or fantasy-SF blend?) Sure, TODAY it is called a dystopian novel. But is that how you would have thought of it five years ago?

How about I AM NUMBER FOUR? Nothing about that strikes me as dystopian — it’s straight up science fiction. But it was published recently! So hey, must be dystopian because that’s what sells!

Goodreads has a list that includes ENDER’S GAME as a dystopian novel. Are you kidding me? It’s a great story, but a dystopia? No way. Here the current preoccupation with dystopias reaches backward to claim victims from the past.

You know what I think is totally, utterly crucial to a dystopian novel? You have just GOT to have a truly oppressive society. You MUST. And if the surrounding society does not fit the bill, then what you have is NOT a dystopian novel.

I’d even separate out post-apocalyptic novels: a society that has just totally collapsed, leading to anarchy and horror? NOT a dystopia.

So if it were me . . . I’d want to see the data that infographic is based on. I’m sure the WORD dystopia is a lot more common today than a few years ago. But not so sure dystopian novels are really through the roof to quite that extent.

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You know what’s changed?

The “Books” page on this very website, that’s what.

Having totally failed to bludgeon WordPress into doing what it was told — I mean, tell it to put a picture on the left and it would drop it in just anywhere, a phenomenon which indeed is occurring again in this actual blog post, but for one post I don’t care enough to figure out how to fix it.

Anyway, Felice at Orbit got WordPress to sit up and beg when SHE held up a cookie.

So the “Books” page now looks much better! With buy links and everything! I specifically asked Felice to make sure all the books are shown in strict reverse chronological order, most recent on top. All taken care of!

I did want to show the German editions and the audiobook editions and everything all on the one page, but it got awfully cluttered, so we agreed to let people click through on the Griffin Mage books to see the specialized editions.

Also, I found out that all three books of the trilogy are out in German — though Books Two and Three only in Kindle. Still, very cool. I like their covers:

Herr Der Winde


Land des Feuers

Gesetz der Erde

Are those pretty or what? I kind of like that they are totally different from the Orbit covers. I think I also like the sort of almost-but-not-quite abstract quality of the griffins and backgrounds and everything.

Pity I don’t read German. I mean, just barely enough to figure out which cover goes to which book. Obviously if you happen to be learning German and want books to practice with, these would be a great choice!

Now, just waiting for HOUSE OF SHADOWS to actually join the rest out in the world . . . right now it just sits on top of the “Books” page like kind of a tease.

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Recent reading

So, just finished Deb Coates’ debut novel, WIDE OPEN. I’d put a picture of the cover here if I could figure out how to open two windows at once on this new laptop, which is a ridiculous problem, I know! Because obviously there must be a perfectly simple way to do this. I will call the place I got it and ask them one of these days. In the meantime, google WIDE OPEN because that’s a pretty nice and quite unusual cover, you should take look at it.

Now, Deb and I have the same agent, and I’ve met Deb a couple of times, and hey! She’s a dog person! She actually owns a GERMAN PINSCHER. You know nobody just stumbles into owning a German Pinscher. You have to be a real dog person to even know they exist. She also has a Rottweiler, btw, so naturally I told her she ought to get a black-and-tan Min Pin, too, just to complete the set.

Anyway, naturally I wanted to love her book!

Whew! Because I did. WIDE OPEN’s being marketed as an urban fantasy — well, contemporary, because it sure isn’t urban — or a paranormal, and of course that’s no surprise because paranormal is so hot hot hot right now, but this one really isn’t very paranormal-ish. The romance is not central enough and it’s not woman-with-psychic-powers-meets-super-hottie anyway. Instead, the main character, Hallie, is recently bereaved (her sister has just died), grieving, angry, and pretty well hair-triggered — I liked her very much. And the romantic lead? He gets called “The Boy Deputy” by everyone in town because he’s so baby-faced. (Hilarious!)

And my favorite secondary character? Hallie’s father. Talk about the strong silent type, emphasis on the silent. I mean, here’s a line I just loved:

. . . while women organized the kitchen or the laundry or feed for the horses and men walked across the fields, looking for her father so they could lean against fences and never say a word.

Isn’t that great? I love the relationship between Hallie and her dad — I really look forward to seeing that subtle relationship develop in the next book (this one’s self contained but there will be at least two more).

And the setting! I’m SUCH a sucker for setting! South Dakota! Who sets a book in Big Sky country? I mean, other than westerns, and they’re not contemporary. LOVED the setting. Deb caught it just so well, it’s a real You Are There setting. Excellent dialogue, too, which I really admire. Deb really captured the clumsy stumbling dialogue that really happens in charged, intense situations. Like here, where Hallie calls a dead man’s fiancee to tell her about his death, and the fiancee says:

“He was the only guy I ever dated,” she said. “Because I’m not — No one ever — I’m not pretty,” she stated flatly. “It was a blind date that first time. My cousin fixed us up. And it was so embarrassing and kind of awful, but he was sweet about it, you know? I didn’t thnk he’d call, but he did — the next day even. And I liked him. I — he was the best guy. But I never knew, I couldn’t ask him, because why? Why would he go out with me? I don’t understand.”

I just loved that scene. It’s not an important scene, but it works really really well. And that’s typical.

So the identity of the bad guy is obvious and the bad guy himself is pretty ho-hum, for me anyway, but it’s the rest of the story which makes this book.

So I wouldn’t recommend this one to my mother, because one cuss word and she’s done with a book, you have no idea, but if that doesn’t bother you the way it does her, then hey! Ghosts, South Dakota, excellent characters, great dialogue, good solid writing — if that sounds like you, you might keep an eye out for this one.

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Advice

No, no, not MY advice to YOU, because I’m not convinced that’s helpful. At least not writing advice. Always happy to offer advice about cakes (of course you should make one tonight!) or dogs (No, of course you should not leap casually into breeding your Yorkie — do you KNOW what kinds of things can go wrong? I would be happy to tell you, at great length.)

But, what I mean is, there sure is a lot of writing advice out there. Like here, for example, a post about whether you should follow “the rules” when writing. It’s a good post, nothing wrong with it, don’t get me wrong. I agree with it, mostly.

But advice. There’s so much of it out there. Seems like every time you turn around, somebody’s explaining how to give your characters more depth or increase your sales or whatever.

Well, it’s nice to understand where a rule comes from and what it’s for and what happens when you bend it or break it or turn it upside down. But I’m not sure there’s a single rule out there that’s, like, really a RULE that you HAVE to follow in order to succeed. And I think that’s true at the craft level (Never Use Adverbs) or at the artistic level (Never Have More Than One POV Character Per Chapter). AND at the get-it-written level (Write Every Single Day). I don’t follow any of those rules, personally, even though I try not to use too may adverbs and a don’t USUALLY have more than POV character per chapter. And when I’m trying to meet a deadline, I do write every day. Well, mostly.

Now, the post I cited? The autor says: When it comes to craft, I believe that there is at least one hard-and-fast rule that ought to be followed by everyone; newbies and crusty, experienced types alike:

“Omit needless words.” Strunk & White, The Elements of Style, 4th ed., p. 23

I cannot say it any better. All of your words should matter. Cut filler, as this only distances your reader from the meat of your story.

Aaand . . . I’m all for rules, in moderation, but you know what? I don’t think I agree that this one is any more universal than a “limit your adverbs” rule. But then, I am not the world’s biggest fan of Strunk and White. Really. Ever happened across the post “Fifty Years of Stupid Grammar Advice”? Because I checked, and the author of that one — google it, okay? — is right: Strunk and White don’t seem able to tell the difference between the past tense and the passive voice, and this does not lead to confidence about the rest of their prescriptions and proscriptions.

But the author of the post I linked above also says this about craft: “There are also many rules that, in my opinion, are best followed by those seeking to learn the craft. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard new authors object to a critique with something along the lines of, “Frank Herbert shifts point-of-view multiple times on one page in Dune, so it can so be done!” Well, yes, it can, but not necessarily by you. Not yet. The problem is this: many writers who respond this way weren’t even aware they were shifting point-of-view, let alone doing it for specific effect and in a way important to their story.”

And I think that’s a great way to think about rules and who should break ’em. You get to do it if you know what you’re doing and why and if you can make it work. If you can’t tell whether it works, well, that’s why you need good, critical, analytical readers.

But I think that’s true not just for rules about the craft of writing,, but for all rules about writing. If it works for you to write seventy pages of a manuscript and then set it aside and not even touch a keyboard for the next two months . . . well, it’s not that I disagree with the butt-in-chair rule, but on the other hand, I’ve done exactly that. Once at a convention I was the only person in the room who didn’t raise her hand when asked “Do you write every day?” Because I don’t.

Just thought I’d mention that in case you also don’t and you were wondering if you were breaking a law of nature.

So: advice! Do you find it helpful, or do you think that by the time you’re ready to write a good book, you’ll be doing it by feel, not by thinking about rules? And can writing advice, no matter how good, actually get you to that point?

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