Thursday, May 29, 2014

Breaking WHAT Rules?

Do you ever hear about how we writers break all the rules?  I do.

Breaking the rules of grammar in poetry writingI have a weekly dinner with fellow creative writers, and it really is one of the highlights of my week.  Of course, things get really crazy really fast, but that is only what is to be expected when you put ten insane people in close vicinity.  A phrase I hear a good deal at these dinners, though, is "break the rules."

What?  What rules?

I have yet to hear the canonical 10 commandments for creative writers.

Yes, I know that "writing rules" exist.  We English majors call them GRAMMAR rules!  I love 'em.

However, I am just going to say it outright.  I wonder if some people don't like to overuse that phrase because it makes them feel like a rebel.  "Breaking the rules" sounds neat, daring, adventurous, etc.  But are you really breaking the rules?

Really, if you think about it, there are no real rules for writing a story.  Those books on writing that you have are really just the suggestions from other authors who discovered what worked for them.  Call them rules if you want to, but odds are those authors had no more idea about what to do when they started then you do.

Guys, I wrote a novel, and I didn't break any of the rules to do it.  Maybe that was because I didn't know any rules at the time, but that is entirely aside from the point.  I didn't ask anybody how to do it, I just did it.

My point?  You can't really break what isn't there.

In fact, if you are a writer, you are going to have to figure out your own writing style.  Everyone has to do it.  There is no way around it.  I guess you could call it a rule.  THAT is a rule you can't break, though.

Think about it, though.  The whole point of being a writer is to say something new, right?  If this is true, then it necessarily follows that you won't be able to follow any set of rules, because you are going to be going into new territory (at least, your readers hope you are going to be going into new territory).  If you are going to be innovative, then you will have to go where no rules exist.  This is why we are called creative writers.  Sure, there are guidelines for us to follow, but hard and fast writing rules simply don't exist except in the minds of the uncreative.  Some ideas work well for some and go horribly awry for others.  I promise you, once you really start writing, you won't have to worry about the ten surefire ways to grab your reader or the best way to write a strong female protagonist.

I'm not saying that these guidelines don't help.  I'm sure that some people do find them helpful, and I don't want to belittle the authors that write them.  I simply don't think that they should be called rules.  Writing is too fluid of a profession to be boxed up into rules.  Fads and phases it may take, yes, but never rules.

If you are any kind of a writer, you'll be able to do it on your own eventually.  You don't need to ask anyone how to write your novel, because no one is going to be able to tell you how to do it.  You can only learn if you buckle down and write.  Once you actually get something down, people will be falling over each other to criticize you.  Don't try to rush it.

Thanks for reading and God bless,