Contact Me

Email me
"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rules Be Hanged!

You know, I deeply appreciate all the writerly people in my life who have educated me and pushed me to better writing over the last several years. I have been completely blessed to find many people who help me along in my writer's journey.

But it IS possible to have too much of a good thing. Hence, the title of this blog. As a result, I truly am "fed up" with all the rules of writing, because I think I've allowed them to hammer into me for so long and in such a steady stream that it has sucked the life out of my writing. Despite how far I've come in 'writerly knowledge', I look back at things I've written and still maintain that my best writing comes when I'm not trying to conform to someone else's idea of the rules of writing.

Take Deep POV, which is all the rage. Yes, editors at publishing houses look for it more and more. But at some point, someone woke up and said "wouldn't it be great if writers wrote this way from now on?" I'm sure writing in first person, writing from multiple POV's, and many others rules got their start this way. Someone concocted the idea, and everyone jumped on the bandwagon.

And if you resist the iron-clad rules - you are labeled as not writing the best you can, or being a lazy writer, or what have you. Again, I don't think it's intentional or mean-spirited, it's just part of that bandwagon mentality - part of the contradiction that is publishing. When you interact on forums with writers, agents, and publishers, the rules are pounded in. When you go to a conference, those same agents and editors are looking for something "unique", "different", a "fresh approach." These two things are not mutually exclusive, but sometimes one can defeat the other. Granted, primarily industry professionals are looking for uniqueness and a fresh approach from the standpoint of the story itself, but the rules of writing come into play as well.

Don't get me wrong - there is merit in ALL of these teachings on writing. They CAN all be used to better our work. But they can also be taught to the point of overkill. To the point of squelching the creative spirit.

And who is responsible for that? I am. I'm eager to learn. Eager to please. I inundate myself with books, emails and blogs on the how to's of writing. Because I DO want to write the best book I can.

But in the last week I've decided to take a step back. To cease and desist on visiting those blogs, put away the books, not look at the emails on the various writing topics. I want to find Brenda's voice once more. Take what I've learned up to this point - put it to good use, but stop letting rules get crammed down my throat.

I understand getting published is a tough row to hoe. Few make it. You've got to have a great book.

I'm all for it. I'm prepared to accept the risk. When I submit, if a publisher or agent doesn't like it, fine. I'll set that project aside, use my accumulated experience and begin a new project, and keep plugging away at it.

But the whole reason I began writing in the first place is because I couldn't find the books I wanted to read on the shelf. That means in order to satisfy that need, I have to write the books I want to read. If an editor or agent deems them unworthy in their eyes, that's okay. They might not have my same tastes. Or it may be a craft issue (I won't stop learning till I die). Or maybe that have a similar project on the table already (and frankly I'll be thrilled if someone tells me they're rejecting me because of a similar project - I want to see that author's book on the shelves so I can read it!). But I need to write stuff I'm excited about. Stories that flow naturally, aren't forced, and that don't pay homage, first and foremost, to rules before they do story.

I know. I know. Writers don't labor all those hours with the intention of being rules first before story (no writer in their 'write' mind 8-) would squander all those hard spent hours sabotaging their own work!), but if the life gets squeezed out of their story, that's exactly what happens.

I know this happens a lot with people who submit to their critique groups too - particularly if they keep reworking and resubmitting the same chapters. As writers, we have to learn when it's time to say "enough!" and go with our gut instinct.

I started working on my novel again yesterday. Only a little less than 2 hours so I barely made a dent in one chapter. But I felt the pain of being hung up, all the rules of writing a very loud buzz in the back of my brain the whole time I was revamping the chapter. I need to find a way to swat those pesky buzzing rule insects and send them packing, so that I can simply write from my gut the story that wants to come out.

That's my goal for this week.

No comments: