Today I’m going to give some advice that’ll make some people sit up and spit.
It’s this – Forget the Rules Already and Write.
Yep, that simple.
I could stop writing right now and leave it at that, but of course I won’t.
We humans seem to be constantly in search of advice, guess that’s why “self-help” books sell so well. But really, do we NEED all that advice? Can’t we rely on our own abilities and instincts once in a while – or most of the time? And don’t many of those ‘rules’ just tie writers up in knots trying to ‘do it right’?
Now, I’m not saying we don’t need to know things in order to write well, such as grammar and some decent spelling (though we do have spell checks and grammar checks these days). We do need to know how to format the manuscript or screen script for submission so it doesn’t get trashed upon receipt. The once-upon-a-time of an editor at a publishing house doing all the grunt work of cleaning up a manuscript are long gone. You absolutely must present a clean, readable manuscript or screen script in the currently accepted format.
But those aren’t the kinds of rules I’m talking about. There are lots and lots….and lots of places on the web, in person, at writer’s groups, where you can hear ‘rules’ recited. Don’t to this. Do that. Nobody’s doing it that way!
Hmmm. Here’s the way I see it. Writing is an evolving craft, always has been. If you look back at what others have written, the classics and the ‘penny-dreadfuls’ and compare it to novels, literature and pulp books along the way up to now you’ll see just how writing has changed. Not really because of ‘rules’ but more because of the way society is changing and readability.
Some of the old ways of writing a novel could now be called ‘stilted’, but it was perfectly accepted and great reading when published. Things change. Styles change. Subject matter changes. And yet what was old is new again (take for example the fixation with vampires – we’ve seen vampire books before Anne Rice and the vampire romances). So ‘story’ keeps coming around, but ‘delivery’ and ‘style’ changes.
So, what am I saying? Quite simply, forget the rules and write already. Get your story out. Break a few rules and by doing so you may well be creating new ones; someone before you did. You may have to change it, rearrange it, but if you don’t stop worrying about all the rules that are getting crammed into your head about how a story is to be presented, then you’re never going to do it at all. You’ll just keep spinning your wheels.
Really, learn how to handle language, present in an acceptable format and give yourself free rein to cause a few new rules to be created that someone else will worry about down the road.
So write already.