I’ve read it time and time again… you must first know the rules before you can break them. Writing is no different.
But what are the rules and where can I find them?
To answer the first part… it varies. I know that isn’t exactly helpful.
Immediately after I wrote the question, I looked on Google for ‘fiction writing rules’. A boatload of articles came up, touting 5, 7, 10, 16 rules. I even found ‘60 rules for Short SciFi/Fantasy’… if it’s short, why do you need 60 rules? Really.
- Show, don’t tell
- Write what you know
- Don’t use the passive voice
- Choose A Point of View (POV)
- Create three-dimensional characters
- Finish everything you start
- Emulate the Masters
The answer to the second part of that question… everywhere. Books, blogs, articles, essays, quotes, etc.
Now for my take on this.
Search, peruse, read, and read some more. Find what works for you. I checked out a book, which came highly recommended on the art of writing. The author was a professor with a MFA and his introduction insinuated that only degreed writers could really write and claimed that emulating the Masters was the only way to go. I forced myself to read part of the first chapter before I sent it back.
I continued to search other books, many with the same adherence to the adages of ‘write what you know’, ‘choose a single POV’, and/or ‘emulate the masters’. One of my problems is that we no longer live in an age where Melville’s Moby Dick would be published. I did not read it in school; I listened to an unabridged audio of it about ten years ago. It was the most boring story I had ever listened to. At this day in age, an editor would have had him cut a good third of the story with all the whaling industry details. Then cut it again to show more emotion.
New generations of readers
We as writers now must cater to the MTV/Live Streaming generation. We cannot wax poetic for multiple pages on the beauty of a flower.
Luckily, I finally found an author of murder mysteries whose book on the craft hit a cord with me when he said ‘emulating the Masters’ causes a writer to lose their contemporary voice. His book is the meat and potatoes I was looking for.
Find a Master of your own choosing and read them. Look to see how your favorite authors follow or break the rules.
My study of the craft
The first rule I broke was ‘write what you know’. My current series is set in Earth’s future and on seven planets across the galaxy. In a recently published short story, I killed off and disposed of the bodies of three writers who are in the critique group I belong to. These are all my imagining, for I don’t have a TARDIS and those three writers are all alive and well today… I promise. Many writers do research or dream up what they write.
‘Finish everything you start’, if I’m blocked, or playing with a fanfiction piece, I can set it away and come back to it later or never. Sometimes you realize what you wrote is crap. So why continue to write something that is not going anywhere and is only wasting your writing time? I save it and someday I can dust it off and find that nugget buried in all the refuge.
Continue to learn or you become stagnate.
I study the craft because I want my work to be the best it can be when I release it out into the world. I don’t want to just play at this, but have a second career in writing.
- It’s never too late to start
- Find your Tribe
- Craft of Writing
Just a note I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. My goal is a 20K novella. Help me remain accountable… ask about my progress.