I had a longish bus ride yesterday, so before I left, I downloaded a book onto my Kindle. I settled into my seat and started reading, feeling smug over the ease of having purchased the novel and then having remembered to put the Kindle into my bag. Unfortunately, I knew I had made a mistake after only three pages. A ten-dollar mistake.
In the future, I'll remember to Google an unknown publisher before I click "Buy" on the Kindle page. In this case, I fell for what must have been five "friends and family" reviews, and because the book was supposed to be set in the period I'm concentrating on (1910-1920, in case you have recommendations), I was hasty. I don't, as a rule, put up negative Amazon.com reviews, because as a fellow writer, I know how cruel they can be, and how hurtful. I won't do it this time, either. I'll just be careful to avoid all books produced by a company called Zondervan. But in the meantime . . .
As a teacher of writing, as well as being an active novelist, I sometimes wonder if I'm too strict with my students over following the basic rules of writing. After this experience, I will no longer question my standards! Observation of some of the basic rules--or even awareness of them--might have saved this novel from being completely unreadable. Head-hopping. Exposition. Excessive adverbs. Telling, not showing. Telegraphing.
Yes, the rules have reasons. And if a writer is going to break them--as we all do from time to time--she should understand what she's doing. And have a reason for it.