Monday, November 4, 2013

What?! There are Novel-Writing Rules?

I'm enjoying NaNoWrito even though  I'm having a tough time staying on task. But today I saw a thread discussion on rule breaking. What? There are rules?

I've learned though, that with NaNo, most rules are self-imposed. In the rest of the novel-writing world, however, there are real rules, but even when it comes to those, I'm reminded of a sentence my dad helped me construct during a third grade spelling homework assignment: Rules are made to be broken. Not original, but I liked it in third grade. It resonated with me even though my teacher put a big red question mark next to it -- or was it a frowny face? Hmm...

We study our craft to learn the art form and the rules. Publishers have rules. Good communication follows rules. Story form follows rules. We don't start to bend or break those rules until we have conquered story and voice and form. That might take years. For some of us, rule-breaking might never become acceptable. So if you're going to be a rebel, you'd better check yourself and decide if you're ready for the backlash. Breaking rules is an art form in itself.

On the other hand, self imposed rules such as don't edit or cut anything until your first draft is finished or don't write fully fleshed scenes out of order are self-imposed rules specific to individual writers' styles. You don't have to be constrained by such orders. The way one person writes can vary greatly from the way another writes. Just jump into the age-old debate of whether Plotting or Pantsing is better (following an outline or writing by the seat of your pants). Some writers go back and edit the previous day's writing before starting on the new day's. Others only go back to check a few details before moving on.

Experimental writing, on the other hand, is by definition rule-breaking. Take those books where no quote marks are used in dialogue for instance, or those stories that use run on sentences in a first person, sort of in-your-face-rushing-past fashion. Now we have people telling us they rue the oxford comma. Oh, the shock!

There are some who can break rules, and some who shouldn't. Even good writers shouldn't always try to break out quite that way. Anyway, have fun with it. That's what I say. (And you know what an authority I -- haha!)

Get your novel written, one way or another. Fix it or don't as you go along. One way or another tie up the loose ends. Make it clean. No -- make it shine.

Write on!

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