Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rules to Use and Ignore


Rules about creative pursuits are slippery.

Just today I read a post from a young writer saying she didn't realize there were rules when she started and another from a veteran writer saying ignore the rules and write your heart out.

There are rules for spelling and grammar that need to be understood and adhered to or our writing would be unintelligible.

There are genre expectations that readers have. Sometimes those expectations can be turned on their heads for great effect, BUT that sort of thing is best done by someone who totally understands the genre. A mystery must be solved. The killer must be caught. The price of magic should be dire. The question put forward in the beginning of the story must be answered by the end.

All the rules put forth by advice books are mostly reminders to write as cleanly and clearly as possible. The war on adverbs fascinates me. I have a friend who cannot abide the use of the word just. Absorb that advice but don't let it inhibit your writing. Let it steer you to more careful and efficient use of language. We all have a word or phrase that we overuse. Be aware of your own bad habits and clean them up in the second draft.

To me, it all comes down to learning to be a competent storyteller. Once you understand the flow that a story needs to draw the reader along, you've learned all the rules you need. Then there is the presentation of that story which is a craft that should be constantly evolving.

Read, write, repeat. Reading in and out of your genre helps you pick up techniques to improve your own work. Writing is practice and every time you build a story you get better at it. Keep learning, keep an open mind and your skill will grow.

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