A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘writing rules’

Day 2 of NaNo Prep Challenge – Going Strong

So I’m really liking JotterPad. I can use it no matter where I am because I almost always have my phone with me. Like today, I was on break at work and taking a quick stroll outside and (you guessed it) writing. Sure, it wasn’t as relaxing as just walking, but it was a pretty great feeling knowing that I was working towards one of my other goals.

I didn’t write quite as much today (I’m sitting at 3841 words and don’t know if I’ll be adding to that tonight) but I’m okay with that. I worked ahead yesterday (when it flows, it flows, you know?) and so I am still almost a thousand words ahead of schedule. And 10 more days to go.

So a brief bit about the short story I am writing. For a while I’ve been thinking “I should try my hand at romance, just to test my skills.” Well, I don’t know if I could do a whole novel, but this short story romance is working out well. And it’s not quite a typical romance (admittedly I haven’t read very widely in the genre, so it could have it’s niche), and I really don’t particularly care for it, but I am proud that I’m writing something outside of my genre, and prouder still that I’m taking it seriously, even though I don’t like it (THANK YOU college for teaching me the value of putting your all into things you don’t like). Will I post it here when I’m done? I haven’t decided yet. It’s a romance so by it’s nature, there’s going to be a scene that I am not quite comfortable putting out there, but I also feel like I should share the dang thing since it’s my challenge! Maybe I’ll edit it out for the sharing.We’ll see how things go.

Anyway, hope you are doing well!

Write on,

Emily

There are No Rules

Pinterest. A great site if you are looking to waste a little (or a lot of) time. Not as great if you are a writer. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a board of writing inspiration (mostly nature pictures and fantasy pictures) as well as a board just about writing. But there is a dark side to being a writer on Pinterest. The Rules.

I can no longer go on the site without seeing things like “5 things to never do when writing” and “Ways you should never begin your novel” and “5 Mistakes in writing that will make you look like an amateur.”

UGH. I’ve mentioned before my detestation for the so-called “rules” of writing. Yes, there are grammatical guidelines and general structures for a story, but no one should EVER tell you to write in a way that is not true to yourself. If you have a prologue, own it. If you want to start with an alarm going off to wake your character, make it a freaking massive alarm. Write  what YOU want to write, not what someone behind a screen is telling you to do. Especially if it is your first draft (more on that in a moment).

Most of these “rules” come from amateurs themselves or (worse) from established authors who have a system that works for them but doesn’t have to be everyone’s system!

Honestly, there are only two things to remember when writing. And they aren’t rules.

1) Keep your hand moving. This comes from Natalie Goldberg. Look how honest that is. Not “write 380 words a day,” not “you must sell your belongings and live in motels.” No. Just keep your hand moving. Use those ten minutes at the bus stop and write something. She doesn’t tell you how or what to write, just to write.

2) Let first drafts happen. They are going to be rough, imperfect, sometimes even bad. That’s fantastic. It means you have something to work with, something to improve on. Don’t paralyze yourself on the third page thinking “this is crap, I can’t use any of this.” Just go back to number one and use it until the draft is done.

Believe in yourself, folks. Don’t let the writing police scare you away. Write what you want to write.

-Emily

Dialogue Tags

Everywhere I look, people are making rules about dialogue tags. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it means words like said and whispered that come before or after dialogue. Let me tell you, some of these “rules” really tick me off!

First of all, writing isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor. There are as many different styles as there are writers. Who should be telling me how to write? Me. Sure, there are really good articles and posts about how to IMPROVE your writing, but strict rules aren’t going to do it.

Rule number one that irks me is “only use said.” On the one hand, I can see the value of this. It can help us be more conscious of showing readers how characters feel (by giving more description of their actions) and I will admit, I’ve read books that only use said and it doesn’t bother me, as a reader. By the same token, I love reading books that use all sorts of dialogue tags – I really think it helps to express the mood and tone. And, if someone is twenty feet away, they don’t speak at a normal tone (which is how said is in my mind) so you need something different (like called or yelled – though yelled to me expresses a different emotion as well).

Another “rule” that I dislike is not using tags that cannot be done. As in, don’t use tags like hiss, growl, snarl, and so on. Many of the people who are making up these rules say that we shouldn’t use these tags because people cannot hiss, growl, or snarl. While that is up for debate (I mean, we don’t growl like dogs do but we have equivalent vocalizations), these tags can add to the story. If the scene is supposed to be quick-paced, saying that a character hissed something is much better than trying to describe minute facial expressions (though of course, I’m sure someone excels at describing those expressions and keeping the tension of the scene up – but it isn’t me).

The last “rule” I will mention in regards to dialogue tags is that many people say don’t use adverbs to modify the tag. Adverbs can be overused, I won’t deny it. I overuse adverbs, I know that. But I also know that they can be useful. For instance, sometimes people talk quietly without whispering or murmuring or muttering. Sometimes we have to use adverbs to successfully set the mood and tone.

My point is, as I said in a previous post, don’t let someone else dictate how you write. Learn everything you can about the craft, but when it comes down to it write the way you want. It will feel more natural and it will make you feel better about yourself.

Take care, fellow travelers.

What’s up With all the Rules?

Following somebody else’s rules on writing isn’t going to make you better. Sure, read all you can about developing your skills and go ahead and read those (arbitrary) rules. But take them with a grain of salt. Writing is creative. Writing is subjective. Just because you din’t follow the rules doesn’t mean you are a bad writer. The people who make rules for writing base those rules on what they write. Be unique.

Take care, fellow travelers.

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