Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Deep thoughts from a shallow pool

The subhead to this fine blog "There's the right way, the wrong way, and the Haugen way" is from my father, who was primarily an English teacher, among other classes.

When a student would try to stump him or argue with him about the correct usage of a word or phrase or anything, and it seemed Dad might be on the losing end of the battle, he would spout that phrase and add: "In this classroom, it's the Haugen way."

It's pretty much served as the mantra of my life. I saw it phrased differently in a Donald Westlake novel I read recently where a character said: "Break other people's rules if you want, but never break your own."

I mention that because over the course of the last 10-15 years I've been able to do my own writing without obnoxious, bossy editors referring to stylebooks and dictionaries and correct usage. I can resort to the Haugen way.

In publishing books, like my new one coming out soon, it's the same way. You can read countless articles about how long or short chapters should be, how long or short a novel should be, how many characters you should introduce, how the story arc should go, etc. A recent one I saw said if you are writing a murder mystery, you need to have a dead body within the first 30 pages. Another said 100.

If it's a writer I respect, I read their suggestions. If it's some blogger or agent or other person "in the biz" I pass. I stick with the Haugen way. When it comes to length of chapters or book, I go back to something I heard long ago regarding newspaper reporting and how long the story should be (in the days before USA Today bastardized the business) and that's: Start at the beginning and end when you're done. Seems logical.

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