mabfan (Michael A. Burstein) (mabfan) wrote,
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)

Robert's Rules of Writing: My Commentary

Welcome to a new feature on Mabfan's Musings for all you writers.

Earlier this year, one of my favorite writers, Robert Masello, published his third book of writing advice: Robert's Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know (Writer's Digest Books). I've been through it a few times, and I thought it might be fun to examine each of his rules in detail, and provide my own commentary. I'd also invite other people to join in the discussion.

A few ground rules. First of all, it's likely that we're going to find rules we agree with and rules with which we don't. Masello even notes in boldface, "Some of these rules, let me warn you, are provocative, controversial, and counterintuitive. You may even want to duke it out with me over some of them (and that's okay, since you don't know where I live)." Criticism of the rules is fine, of course, but attacking Masello or anyone else for their suggestions is ad hominem, and I won't allow it. What works for him or for me may not work for you, and that's fine.

Second: The book is designed with each short rule given as a header, but then Masello has a short essay to explain each rule. I'll quote the one-line rules, of course, and then discuss both the rule and his essay. However, since I'm not going to quote the entire essay each time -- for one thing, it would be a violation of copyright -- it's possible that I might phrase things badly, or get something wrong. So if you respond to something I said, and then I have to reply that you're wrong because I misrepresented something in the book -- I apologize in advance. (Of course, the easiest way to participate in this discussion would be to get a copy of the book for yourself; and obviously, I wouldn't be discussing the book like this if I didn't recommend it myself.)

Finally, keep in mind that Masello is aiming his advice at people who are or who want to be professional writers, earning their living (or a major portion of it) from their writing efforts. So if you feel like his rules are slighting people who are writing "just for fun," well, you're right, and it's not a valid point on which to criticize his rules. That would be like criticizing a history textbook for not including enough guacamole recipes.

So over the next few months, until I get through all 101 rules, Mabfan's Musings will turn into a place for discussions of writing advice, along with everything else we like to talk about here -- history, science, and of course, comic books.
Tags: roberts-rules, writing-advice

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