Monday, November 10, 2014

Is It Okay to Break Writing Rules?

Jackie--obeying the rules
by Jackie King

I try to be a good citizen and rule-breaking goes against my nature. However, the older I become, the less sure I am that writing rules and regulations shouldn’t be broken...sometimes.

Learn the rules before you break one.
When I write something contrary to general writing rules, my first impulse is to delete the scene. This is because another writer once said that it was wrong. Lately, however, I've paused over the delete button, now aware that I might be making an error. I've learned to hesitate before making something disappear from my screen forever. I've become cautious about pushing that delete button. I leave the words for the moment and make the judgment later during editing. (Unless you’re on deadline, when you do whatever is necessary to finish on time.)

When I wake up with a scene in my head that breaks all of the rules and my old writing teacher’s voice shouts inside my head, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” I do it anyway.
I can't do what?
I key in whatever words fill my mind, and try to put my heart on the paper. If this sounds messy, it’s because it is. Very. And hard. And exhausting. I’ve mentioned to other writers how exhausted I am after writing. Most agree. The average person, husbands, wives, etc., don’t get this, and there’s no reason they should, unless they also write.

One rule you should follow:
Back when I taught fiction classes I told my beginning students to commit themselves to writing 30 minutes a day. The important thing was to write every day, I assured them.

Several hands always went up. “But, I love writing and want to write for hours and hours,” students would say and most of the class would agree.

“Just make sure you clock 30 minutes. It’s harder than you think,” would be my answer.

The next week at roll call, I’d ask, “Did you write every day?” Few could answer, “Yes.”

No one knows how hard it is to put your heart’s blood on paper except those who write every day.

In each class there would always be one or two who ‘got’ what I was saying. Those were the students who became selling authors. You just have to stay with it. You have to plod through the days you wonder what on earth ever made you think that you could write.

But sometimes…
Usually I follow the rules. Today I may break one.

My Grace Cassidy Mysteries:

#1 in series

#2 in series

No. 3 in series is now a work-in-progress