Recently I skimmed through the most recent edition of Writer's Digest. I have an on again, off again relationship with that resource. Sometimes I'll look through it when I'm at my local Borders and decide to purchase a random copy because it has something in I know I'll want to read in more depth.
In this issue, a letter to the editor caught my eye. The writer complained about a well-known writer (without using a name). The best-selling author changes POV from paragraph to paragraph in her books, uses adverbs liberally and still sells lots of books. The letter writer said she found herself being pulled out of the story as she backtracked constantly to figure out who's head she was inside. The inquiring person wanted to know why some authors get away with these big faux pas.
As authors it is difficult not to notice mistakes in books we read. A recent bestseller I read had dozens of typos and misspellings. I wondered where the proof readers were. I understand a few getting through but this was more than I would expect in a polished manuscript I had prepared to send out. And like the letter writer, I notice all those adverbs it's okay for successful authors to use. All those passive verbs. POV changes abound. Yet you'll find those books on the displays in the front of book stores. They'll be on the best seller lists and the author will receive six figure advance money for them.
If I tried the same thing in my book, no agent would read past the third or fourth adverb. They'd throw it off the wall at the first head-hopping I did in the middle of a scene. Let's not even talk about the words, 'was or be,' I'm likely to have sprinkled about the manuscript. Why can they do that and I can't?
Because I'm not there yet. I still must follow those rules. I can't tell my editor to leave it alone. I can't guarantee my faithful readers will pick it up even if I use lots of adverbs. My publisher doesn't have mega-dollars invested in so they'll promote my work even if it's not my best. I'm not there and most of aren't. So I'll keep on following those rules and maybe someday I'll be there.
Have you read any books by famous authors who blatantly ignore the rules we're taught to follow? (No names, please) Do the breaking of the rules distract you when reading? Which one would you like to break?