Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Some time ago, I was stocking up on how-to guides on writing. What struck me the most is that every one of these guides had different rules on approaching novel writing. My view on the topic is this: BREAK THE RULES!

There will be things you disagree with, like I have with some of these guides. I value the difference of opinion on strategies to handling novel writing. But there are some things you have to figure out entirely by yourself or are limiting yourself by one person's set of rules.

In one book I read you need to erase your inner editor and just write whatever comes to mind. Don't bother fixing grammatical errors, just wait until the novel is finished. This does not work for me. I edit as I write because there is a need to, plus I'm always adding new things. If I were to write a 50,000 word novel and hadn't been editing the entire time, I'd feel like a train wreck just having to go back and correct all that mess.

Another book I read brought up a good point about making characters relatable by giving them phobias. Which I agree. Nothing makes a connection stronger than a character flaw that a reader can share and sympathize with. But, while the book was listing all the possible flaws your character can have, it specifically said, "Do not use Acrophobia~fear of heights or Claustrophobia~fear of closed spaces."

"Why not?" I said out loud while reading the book. Why discount those two? Especially when an estimated 5 out of every 100 people have a fear of heights. There is also a study saying that 7 percent of the world's population suffer from different forms of claustrophobia. I imagine one of the highest being premature burial.

Those numbers, to me, are too large to ignore and too ripe with ideas not to write about them.

Finally, the last topic I'd like to present to you is a situation that involved an evaluation of my first novel. In the prologue, a middle age man is searching for things to do in his vacation house until he decides to fall asleep. In that scene, becuase he is a lonely man who never married, he talks to himself. He thinks out loud, maybe two or three lines of dialogue. One editor told me that I should erase those lines. The reason being that they said "Characters don't talk to themselves."

When I first read that, almost instantly, my mind brought up several characters who do just that. Hamlet was talking to himself when he was contemplating suicide wasn't he? It's also something we do naturally. We talk to ourselves to remind ourselves of certain things. We talk to ourselves when we are lonely, scared, contemplating something, organizing our thoughts. We can even have a character talk to themselves to illustrate a mental illness.

So I say, why all these restrictions? Isn't writing an experiment itself? Shouldn't we be free to make the book how we see fit? It's our world after all, isn't it?

Have fun with it. Don't feel as if you are supposed to follow some kind of code. The rules are always changing with each debut book. Shake things up and be unconventional.

"Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing." — Melinda Haynes

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