Some rules are meant to be followed, others to be bent/ignored, and some are just bullshit. Figuring out which is which, now that's the damn challenge.
Don't use adverbs. Don't swear. Don't head hop. Don't write about vampires anymore. Do write about angels, merman, sprites with kites, or whatever other bullshit faerie creature's hot atm. Do write XX,XXX words for XX genre. Do omit needless words... good luck figuring that out. Do start in media res. Don't start waking up (The Road, The Hunger Games), Don't do prologues...
After awhile, there are enough rules that the box/prison is clearly defined. If you haven't checked out Michelle Argyle's recent post, I'd highly recommend it, because the video she links to captures what's wrong with rules far better than I can.
Doesn't mean we should shun all rules (that 400k novel's not gonna sell for an FTA), but don't let creativity be stymied by others, otherwise the artistic process can become a stressful chore... and then why do it anymore?
Amen, brother. Amen.
I've made much of the fact that I hate style guides and adherence to rules with the fiery vengeance of a thousand imploding supernovas; this stems all from the fact that nothing, and I do mean NOTHING, can stymie a writer's voice quicker than slavish devotion to any set of rules.
So yeah. About the only thing I can be said to strictly adhere to is the word count guidelines. And even those are that -- guidelines.
As I've said in numerous places, there is only one Rule when it comes to writing fiction:
Make it interesting.
I have to echo Matt-- Amen.
I kinda tossed the rules out (I should stress here I tossed the ones that didn't make sense to ME) and just started doing my own thing a few books back. And I can tell you writing is so much more fun now. I'll catch a lot of the sloppy stuff on edits, but I'm not going to cut an adverb that sounds good just because it's classified as the descriptor of a verb.
However, the die-hards of the rules will come and chase you for breaking them, so it can be hard to tune them out even if you don't read very many blogs.
I think reading blog advice is kind of like reading critiques. You don't have to use everything. In the end you need to be true to your story. I've read some pretty great books that break the rules.
The fabulous Ink said on Nathan's blog about voice, that it is that indefinable thing that shows confidence in the writing. Yes you have to relentless try to improve your craft, but following the rules (or perhaps breaking them) isn't really the goal - it's not even the path, more like the starting point. That signpost at the beginning of the trail in to the wilderness that says "Somewhere out in that direction is where you want to go." Then you need to find your way on your own. At some point, you'll feel like you can at least avoid getting eaten by bears, and possibly keep yourself alive for more than a day. When you're the stealthy hunter padding through the forest on silent feet, then you'll know you've arrived.
I'm still working on my merit badges.
Thanks for the great reminder, Bane! You are my go-to-guy for not getting wrapped up in the crazy.
I got so caught up in the rules of writing when I first started writing my novel that I spent more time editing a sentence than writing it.
Now, I like vague rules: stay in POV, round out your characters, have a consistent, progressive time line. Its easier to write now that I just write it and make sure it makes sense and flows smoothly. I do stick to word counts, but other than that, I'm with the others - make it interesting, and the rules will work themselves out.
I hadn't watched the video on Michelle's post, but I did this time. Glad you posted it again.
This is a great post. I think since blogging I've gotten caught in the "rule trap" way too many times. Rules are more like guidelines, anyway, and the important thing is to know what they are and then consciously breaking or bending them. If someone followed all the rules there are out there for writing a novel, it would be a very poorly written novel.
Rules are like pie crust, made to be broken.
Okay, so maybe that's supposed to be promises, but I'm sure Mary Poppins won't mind.
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