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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Whose writing rules?

Because Alice inspired me to go and do some research and because I am still in the midst of my revisions, I picked up my copy of Swain again and started to read the introduction.
He makes a certain of sense as long as I ignore the remark about love pulps. His basic point is that most published writers eventually figures out what works them. They develop a set of rules because human beings in general like to have some idea of how to go about things.
But rules only work in writing when they come from the heart. If rules come from the head, then they can inhibit feeling. Story is all about the communication of feelings. Without that communication, it can feel flat and the reader does not get the tension and emotional release they crave.
A big mistake writers can make is blindly following someone else's rules. They need to master the forms and techniques of writing. so they can have the tools to shape their work, but they should NOT be blindly following somebody else's pre-ordained pattern.
The most important thing to ask when faced with someone else's rule is why. If you can understand the reasoning behind the rule, then you can figure out if the rule makes sense for you and your writing.
The novice writer should not be asking how do I? But why do I and if I want to do xyz, what are the basic steps that I need to take. By knowing the why and the basic steps, the writer can formulate her own rule and her writing will retain that depth of feeling.
It is one of the reasons why I think it is important to study craft, so that a writer can work the mechanics behind a thing and not simply accept that because something appears to have always been done in a certain fashion, it must continue to be done that way.
So when you are faced with a set of rules -- ask why and see if they make sense for your writing.
Then make your own set of rules that work for you.
It is always about mastering form and discovering your own methods.

Cranford starts tomorrow evening and I am very excited. It does look excellent. Simon Woods who plays Dr Harrison played Mr Bingley in latest P&P. Me thinks he might be one of the love interests.

My revisions are going along and the book is getting much better. I have passed one of the really emotional bits and while most readers will go -- okay, so what;s new with the price of fish after reading it, I was trembling and tearful as I wrote it. But then my characters mean a lot to me.

2 comments:

Nell said...

I never think in terms of rules but more as guidelines. Guidelines can be helpful and supportive but can also be bent, broken and even ignored. The thing is, you have to know them in the first place or else you'll get in trouble.

Michelle Styles said...

The trouble can be when authors start treating guides as rigid rules.

The other problem can be when people do not bother to ask WHY.

A long time ago Kate Walker told me that why was the most important question. And you know she was right.