"If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster." --Isaac Asimov

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Throw away the rule books

When I started writing fiction again, after a long, long lapse, I spent an inordinate amount of time reading various "instructional" books on writing because I felt I had to do so, in order to determine what would sell in today's market. There were books that focused on technique, plot, character development, and even voice. I began to feel so hemmed in by how the experts advocated I should write that I did very little writing myself.
That's why I enjoyed reading a series of posts on Indies Unlimited by Lin Robinson titled: Breaking the "Rules" (the link is to the last post in the series, to aid navigation).  It's not that I believe in total anarchy, but there's a far better way to improve writing style. As Robinson says:

The good news is, there is a set of books that show you what can be done, and how great writers write. It’s called “the body of published literature”.

I don't agree 100% with every point he makes. For example, head-hopping still bothers me when I read it (and I distinguish between head-hopping and multiple POV here). But overall, I think many writers could benefit from simply throwing away the instructional guides and "how to" books, and reading more. The one book on writing that I did enjoy is (aptly enough), On Writing by Stephen King.
What do you think? Do you write by the rules?

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