the rules of writing

Okay, I just had to say this. I just saw where yet another author put on hisher blog the rules of writing. And I think of the years I struggled to consider myself an author, because I didn’t obey any of the rules that other people–who knew they were right–laid down. Oh, I could write. I’d been doing it non-stop since I was ten. I have a big lock box full of the stories I’d written, and I thought they were good. But I wasn’t an author, because I couldn’t follow the rules.

Most of the books I read on the subject were written by people with left brains. Outline, character charts, routine writing hours, etc, etc. Well, not only do I have a vestigial left brain that is all used up with punctuation and spelling, I’m so dominantly right brain that not one of those suggestions worked for me(okay, and I was diagnosed last year with ADD. It’s the hat trick of disorganization).

I felt like a failure because I couldn’t write an outline to save my life. Not that I can’t write a synopsis. I can tell you who my characters are, what the conflict is, and many of the scenes that are within. But to do it in a linear fashion before I actually write the book is, literally, impossible. Every time I try I can feel my head hit the wall. I’m frustrated, I feel like a failure, and my creativity shuts up like an irritated clam. It took me years of study on brain function and some wonderful books on using the right brain to finally understand that the way I wrote, which included laundry-listing items in the book, doing a free-association character study that just let the character talk for herself, writing my books in what we lovingly call the binge-and-purge fashion(more on that later), was absolutely right. For me.

Here’s the best word I’ve ever heard on the subject of rules of writing. It’s by Somerset Maugham, who said, “There are three hard and fast rules to writing. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are.” In other words, whatever gets words on paper in a timely fashion is the right way. For you. Yes, I can give suggestions. Anybody can. Just remember they’re suggestions of what works for me. You have to take those and see if they fit into your way of doing things. If it energizes you to write better, more easily, more comprehensively, great. If they stop the words like big clots in your chest, then they’re the wrong suggestions. Keep looking.

If you want to write, and you want to improve, you’ll always find something that resonates for you. I do all the time. But always keep in mind this simple fact. Not every rule is for every author.

Happy writing!
EileenKathleen, the evil twins


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