Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Rules of Writing…

My mind started wandering (big surprise) when I wrote a comment on GenReality (side note: if you haven’t gone there it’s a must for published and aspiring authors alike. Each day is a different author, from all genres about this business).

I realized, (like a baseball bat, hitting me over the head) that I write to the rules and not to the story. I’m so caught up in what I can and can’t do that the story starts to become stilted in my head and on paper.

I hear things like this in my head: you can't start two sentences with the same word, pick a better power word, you can't use an 'ing' word to start a sentence, it's an 'ly' word I can't use that, dear god they need to talk, when was the last time you said her/his name. By this time I've spent twenty minutes not writing because I'm worried about the next sentence.

When an idea comes out of nowhere I just write it down with no thought. But God help me if I plot a book - I start at square rule #1 and do not pass go.

Crap, what were the rules again...

I honestly can't remember the last time I wrote without rules. And probably haven’t since years ago when I didn't know any better, and only knew the “basic” do’s and don’ts. (by basic I mean: margins, double space...)

You hear all the time that agents and editors want a fresh new voice. And as V told someone (paraphrasing here) – I am fresh voice, you haven’t read my work. (I love that!!!!) It’s obvious they’re getting these fresh voices with the books that have come out from practical unknowns. So, I started thinking and wondering if these unknowns played by the rules.

Of course an idea has to be fresh, new, maybe even old hat with a new twist, I get that. Really I do. But did the writers themselves do what we, the students of the craft, believe are the rules?

Were the margins 1” all the way around and double spaced, was it written on a napkin or a pad of paper and submitted. Did they have a clue that vampires are passé? These books still made it to the best sellers list. But did they study the craft and follow the rules?

Since joining a writing group I hear over and over, you must know the rules to break the rules. Rules...we don't need no stinking rules. But I digress, as my stubborn side kicks in. Sure we need them, to an extent. But how can your creativity flourish if you can’t spread your wings and think outside of the rules (or box). How can anything be unique or fresh?

I honestly can’t tell you, because now that I know the rules, I don’t know how to write without them – which is another rambling all together.

Do all these rules (and honestly, I don’t know who came up with them), hamper your writing? Do you think if you could just write your story, it would be better?

Let me know, I’m open to debate and opinions – It keeps the mind fresh and open. ;-)



Vicki said...

LOL, LKap, this is a great post. Although I know the rules, I'm trying to write the first draft, just as it's called, a first draft. I can go back and fix 'the rules' at that point.

Brandy W said...

I think the rules, rather you are a writer or not, hamper someone. Take me for instance. I don't write how I talk because I tend to be proper in writing. Punctuation and spelling mistakes freak me out. I re-read and go back over and change or fix. I can't seem to express more of my personality into what I write because of those blasted rules.

Patricia W. said...

LKap, you said, " that I know the rules, I don’t know how to write without them..." That pretty much sums it up for me. Impossible to throw them away and just tell the story, at least for me.

But I know I still break a lot of them because I haven't mastered all the rules yet. And I don't want to. Being inexperienced might help me to tell a better story.

LKap said...

V -
You're doing well with writing that first draft - we all have to learn to keep writing and not go back to check and re-check - that's the rules taking over.

Brandy -
You are so right.It doesn't matter if you're an author or not, there are just some things that we need to stop - let it flow and fix later. Let it flow "T" loves your stories either way ;-)

Patricia -
In some cases yes you are further along because you are writing what you want. The way I see it, get it all out now. It can be fixed later. As Sasha told me at the GenReality site - write and use the "rules" when it's time to edit.

Brandy W said...

LKap I think there is probably a point while editing that ignoring the rules will make for a better story as well. If the rules stifle the voice then you need to ignore them.

That's true about "T" too. English as a subject is not his strong point. He writes what he feels and likes it when I do the same.

Billi Jean said...

OMG! Rules! Who needs them, who started them and why wasn't I asked??? LOL -- I have to say I write, then I re-write, then when that fun is done -- and I have a story, an actual piece of work that I like -- then I have to go into editing mode -- and that's when I can get bogged down, scared to cut, scared to leave it, all that. But it can be a bitch to go back and find silly little things that if I had just remembered not to do, simple typing errors that I repeatedly do, my editing would be so much easier! Great topic!!!

LKap said...

Billi Jean -
I'm glad you liked it - I feel the same way - obviously ;-)