The Right Way to Write

Writersdontcry Writer Emoticow is CrushedQ: How should I write my book?

A:  Any way you want to.

The number one rule about writing is there are no rules—so long as you can make it work. That’s right. You can misspell every single word in your book—or write large swathes of it in a made-up language—so long as you can make it work. You can even write wish-fulfillment, cliché-filled fantasy where every character is a cardboard confection with a sparkling, talking dragon on top—just be prepared to work the hell out of it.

And that’s the point where you stop reading. Right? Because if there are no rules, then why read writing this advice? Why write writing advice at all? I mean seriously, where does it all come from? The amount of it online is staggering—and that doesn’t even count the advice arrayed in actual books!

But I find that--in the gooey, wooey mess of freedom that is writing at its most creative—analyzing, breaking things down, and categorizing can help you improve where you didn’t even know there was room to grow. Besides, there are a great many rules that are right 80% of the time (give or take 80%), so it does help to pay attention to what others have learned before you. Just try to remember that with enough skill and ingenuity, you can break almost any rule you need to so long as it enhances your story. All you have to do is figure out how.

So, here is my writing advice about . . . uhm . . . writing advice!

Take What You Need
What’s this? No rules? Then why read writing advice at all!

Writing is such a solitary pursuit. I mean, sure, technically we write in school. Some. But if you were like me, most of your writing was done between classes in notebooks, and after school at home—on your own. Which means it’s easy to get stuck in one perspective on writing, making it hard to overcome obstacles and improve.

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Comments (2)

When I first looked at your list of challenges, I thought, "Yeah, some of those could be tough to pull off." Then I realized how many of them George R.R. Martin has pulled off in "A Song of Ice and Fire": #2 - check, #4 - check (lots of flashbacks), #5 - check, #6 - check, I think (here I'm thinking of Daenerys, although he has also said "the dragon has three heads").

The first thing that #3 reminded me of was the movie "Memento."

Posted by: Brom | Monday September 10, 2012 at 2:42 PM

Brom: They're actually all taken from unlikely situations in books I've seen authors make work! And yes, Martin has definitely pulled a number of crazy writing stunts that people said could not be done. Good catch :).

Posted by: Susan J. Morris | Monday September 17, 2012 at 12:13 PM

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