Thursday, January 30, 2014

On Writing Rules

The internet is loaded with blogposts, forums, and interviews that re chock-full of advice and "rules" about writing well. However, for every ten-or-so writing advice posts, you will also see a post that states "No rules are concrete. Do what's best for your book." With all of this contradictory advice, how do you know when it is or isn't okay to break a "rule" or disregard some advice?

For many of us, our gut reaction is to assume our book is the one is different from all the others, and that other people's rules and advice don't apply to it. (Either that, or we think of a best-selling novel that doesn't follow this rule. If that author can get away with it, why can't you?) But obviously, we're biased. We understand our own book better than other people ever will. But we also need to consider how our readers will react, which is impossible with our personal bias.

So how do you really determine if a rule applies to you?

1. Can I think of a way to edit my story to so that it follows this rule/piece of advice? A big reason we shy away from advice is that it's inconvenient--anything that asks us to go back to the drawing board means more work. And if you don't immediately know how to make the proposed changes, then it's only natural for you to want to ignore this rule.

But what if you actually thought it through? What if you took a day or so to reflect on this advice and think of a way you could change your novel to make it work?

That brings you to number two.

2. Would these changes make your novel better? If it would, make the changes. If not, don't make the changes. If other people think it will make your novel better and you don't? Well, that's up to you, I guess. Personally, I believe in staying true to my own preferences, but that doesn't mean I can't find a way to strike a balance between other people's opinion and my own.*

*Even though it doesn't seem like it, I'm seriously trying to lessen my use of italics and one-sentence monologues. Maybe not quite to the degree that Ifeoma would like (awkward laugh), but I am trying to be more conscious of my monologuing habits.

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