Monday, 23 August 2010

Rules? Nobody told me there were Rules!

Everywhere you go on Writers' Forums you run into lots of excellent and not-so-excellent advice. Little nuggets and homilies, usually littering people's signatures, like "If you see an adjective, kill it!" and "The Road to Hell is paved with Adverbs".

I've been knocking around these places long enough to see a few sacred cows built up only to come crashing down when someone comes up with an exception to the Rule. The net result is I no longer believe in rules. Of course you need grammar and spelling, those kind of rules. But once you get to the creation of fiction anything goes, and there is only one rule as far as I can see: IF IT WORKS, DO IT.

So why do these so-called rules get bandied about? I think it comes from well meant feedback people get from their submissions - an Editor or Agent mentions the fact that Wannabe has too much description in his first chapter. Wannabe then relays this to his group as "I was told not to have weather in the first chapter" and before you know it it's been enshrined in marble.

The point about being creative is you have to be flexible and open to any new ideas. Same with your method of working. There are no hard and fast rules about how a manuscript comes into being; some people painstakingly outline, research for months and plan every detail meticulously before they write a word. Then they sit down every day and churn out thousands of words at a time without pause. At the other end of the spectrum some take the Nanowrimo approach, barely plan anything and bash out a rough draft full of holes and margin notes to ADD LATER. Some write a passable first draft that hardly needs a spell check, others go through a hundred drafts before it resembles something readable. Does it really matter? Is one way right or wrong? It seems to me writing a novel is such a personal endeavour it must take a personal approach. So do what suits you best, and don't listen to any so-called Rules.

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