Such sentiments expressed in my writing are unsurprisingly often my own, so I wonder just how warily I should tread within these forums, being an elderly self-opinionated fellow but a novice writer. I read the many threads here about the rites of passage towards better writing, whether on specific subjects or the ordeal in general, and wonder from whence the authority concerning this better writing arises.
For example someone mentioned that Stephen King advises against excessive use of adverbs, but I would imagine that he is an acclaimed author because people enjoy the stories that he tells, not because of the frequency of adverbs in them. I don't read his work because the stories themselves don't appeal to me no matter how well written, so I cannot judge. To my mind it doesn't follow that imitating the idiosyncrasies of acclaimed writers necessarily aids one's own progress. In place of this where is the scientific statistical research that bears out the rules of thumb of good writing through controlled experiments?
Where do the guidelines on better writing originate then if not from there? Is there some quasi-religious sect who determine such things? Will initiates eventually be accepted into it and learn the secret handshakes so that they may smirk at us novices alongside their brethren? Is the self-flagellation really so essential just to the telling of a story?
I just had a story to tell, even if that did involve a great deal of showing as well, and I used my skills in the English language to the best of my ability, which has served me well for far more serious purposes throughout my life. The few people who have read my novel fall into two categories, those who read it all and enjoyed it, even to the extent of recommending it to colleagues, and those who gave up reading it early on. There was the good friend who observed "I don't like the way that it is written but I'll go on reading it just to find out what happens." I haven't heard from him since so don't know which category he's in now. Anyway it's just a story; maybe the only reason for reading it is to find out what happens, but maybe it isn't.
Now torn between joining this quasi-religious sect and simply sharing my story I wonder if I am alone. While buying a couple of books in Waterstones recently I discussed the trend towards self-publishing with the assistant, who observed "Well we're still here so far." Nevertheless it does appear that there is the possibility of a substantial schism between the story tellers and readers on the one hand and the literature writers and readers on the other.
I spent my working life in software development and have seen a parallel schism there. Computer software can be developed as a marketable product in its own right but it also occurs as a by-product when organisations or individuals need it for their own purposes. For example a film-maker might develop CGI software for their own specific use but then choose to give it away to others just in case they can find a use for it. There might be no support or even instructions on how to use it, but it could still be beneficial to some. On the other hand some people clearly gain considerable income from developing such software to be sold. In some areas such as word processing the free market seriously threatens the commercial market, which may never recover. Equally it appears that in literature there are now those who produce stories perhaps solely for their own amusement, peace of mind or vanity and the commercial aspect is of little significance to them. There is also evidence that there is a market for these twopenny-ha'penny scribblings regardless of the finer points of good writing. Does this mean that society's habits in reading may be dividing or were they always so?
If there are any high priests to this once all-powerful perceived quasi-religion then they must be within the publishing industry, but those people are simply doing what they must to survive, slicing out the modal profitable portion of the spectrum of available work and leaving behind that which falls below their good writing threshold or above their intellectual browline. No doubt to this end they have to rely on fast track filtering techniques such as synopses and computerised analysis of full texts, anything but sitting and reading the story in full and in depth to determine whether it is good in itself. That is of course an unfair exaggeration but probably still a valid observation to some extent. Faced with those hurdles to overcome no wonder many writers would rather go straight to a primary measure of success, an available forum of readers, by self-publishing rather than learning all the skills required in hurdling possibly artificial secondary measures.
In this context I have no personal illusions to be shattered. I have offered what I have written to a few others in case they might gain enjoyment from it and all that the experience can satisfy in me is my curiosity, but I wonder how these experiences of the world of writing affect others.
I suppose that I am now expected to incorporate a little jocularity in everything that I write, so I must not disappoint on this occasion. I am always amused to see on TV reports of American children studiously tackling the ordeal of spelling competitions at the highest level. As an Englishman I wonder in what way being able to spell the American way is considered an achievement. To be fair there's no absolute right or wrong about it so why use it to persecute them? Maybe I feel about the rules of "good" writing in the same way. Why persecute the good story tellers with them?