Monday, 27 May 2019

The Twelve Rules For Writing Literature


The Twelve Rules For Writing Literature

By

T.F. Pruden
1. Literature must provide questions, not answers.

The writer's job is sharing experiences, not telling readers what to think about them.  As the fundamental responsibility of art, music and literature is illuminating the condition of society, neither personal opinions nor rhetorical positions are acceptable for inclusion within literary work.  Specifically, the writer must share a story, while keeping both opinions and answers out of it.

2. Literature must be known by experience, not reported as bystander.

A writer may factually document only that which individual temporal experience personally reveals.  Specifically, third-party information must be identified in first-person narratives, with omniscient narration based on science, observed, or related behavior employed only when or if judged necessary to best serve the story.

3. Literature must respect the rules of grammar, not serve them.

The writer must demonstrate mastery of the craft.  As such, basic guidelines of mid-twentieth century English grammar are to be observed, aside from within dialogue.  While splitting the infinitive for reasons of style is approved meanwhile, use of the vernacular must always be limited to either first-person narratives or dialogue.  Specifically, this rule prohibits sentences from ending with prepositions, while those begun with prepositional phrases require use of a comma. 


4. Literature must provide only facts, not beliefs.

As science is fact while history but opinion, so genre fiction is entertainment and not to be confused with literature.  For a work to be literary, the facts of temporal reality must compose and provide the entirety of theme, plot and characterization.  Specifically, this rule identifies that while opinions are certainly as common as assholes, they have no place in literature.

5. Literature must be written individually, not by committee.

A writer must work alone, from a project's start to its completion. The writer's work is not finished when either draft or manuscript is completed. While editorial feedback is encouraged prior to engaging the revision process, neither line editing nor collaboration of any kind is allowed at any time. Specifically, this rule approves the use of word processing and editing software but limits third-party assistance to feedback, proofreading and copy editing.

6. Literature must provide historical perspective, not timely reportage.

Experience while most often the best teacher, must be allowed the benefit of time's perspective to be appreciated. The writer must not allow emotions or desire for timeliness to limit the perspective achieved only by distance and time. Specifically, this rule prevents the damning of a work to either period or emotional influence by requiring writing driven by fashions, fads or favorites be avoided.

7. Literature must be grammatically constrained, not mutilated.

While appropriate for the writer to incorporate specific language constraints to demonstrate literary mastery, such constraints must always be near invisible to the reader and incorporated throughout a work.  Specifically, this rule identifies either loss of grammatical consistency or stylistic readability in support of constraint as not acceptable.

8. Literature must be thematically defined, not limited.

While multiple thematic elements are acceptable within a single work, each must be effectively represented within its context.  Specifically, this rule recognizes broad implementation of either symbolism or metaphor as suitable but requires single-sentence thematic statements provided in explanation for a work be suggested within the text.

9. Literature must respect tradition, not deny it.

Defending traditional literary forms requires an understanding of the difference between influence and respect.  Those either hidebound by conformity or blindly devoted to innovation miss the point of not only literature, but also music and art.  The timeless secrets of form and function valuable to writers from all ages meanwhile, are most reliably discovered within classical works.  Specifically, this rule confirms those who don't read good books suffer a far greater loss than they who can't and requires the writer to read and implement the lessons found there.

10. Literature must be stylistically consistent, not obtrusive.

No matter what is being written, literature must incorporate a narrative voice appropriate to the writer's taste, not that of either desired audience or treasured results. Consistency of literary style builds trust between reader and writer, and from that rises verisimilitude. Specifically, this rule identifies the intellectual and emotional bond created by consistent and unobtrusive style as necessary to a believable and lasting literary experience.

11. Literature must serve the story, not its writer.

The point of writing novels is neither enriching nor ennobling writers but documenting the ever-evolving conditions of life on earth.  As talking about and promoting the work might damage or affect its process, a writer must avoid intrusions related to fame, fortune and notoriety.  Specifically, to achieve success a writer must choose to write, not speak.

12. The writer must write, not make excuses for it.

As a wise man said long ago, to be, one must do.  Thus, to earn the authentic title of writer requires the act of writing be an undeniable and lifelong habit bordering on obsessive compulsion.  To those who must, the work produced should then and ever be allowed to speak for itself.  Specifically, this rule prohibits the writer from either written response to critics and criticism or seeking of awards and plaudits.

 

T.F. Pruden

Thorsby, Alberta, Canada

2014

 

“Do not seek perfection, which is death.  Let it seek you.” ~ William Saroyan, 1908-1981