New Year New Rules

By on January 2, 2018
New Year New Rules - Writer's Life.org

A New Year is a time for a fresh start for many people, and for writers, it is an excellent opportunity to try new things.

One of the challenges many writers face is that while they want to learn, they can feel restricted and confused by the writing rules they hear about, and spending too much time trying to adhere to them can end up being detrimental to their work.

So since it’s a new year and a time for a change, why not try to gain a new perspective? Here are some of the classic writing rules and why perhaps 2018 is the year that writers should rebel against them!

Show don't tell. As writers, we must have heard this piece of advice a million times. The trouble is for many of us doing so doesn’t come naturally. If we get too caught up in this rule, we can end up delaying our work and becoming too critical of our writing. Even the best writers tell their readers things occasionally, and you know what? The readers don’t even notice. Get your book written in the first instance and then worry about this rule. Sometimes it is just more economical to tell the reader, to be direct and matter of fact. So while it is important not to direct the reader throughout the book, this rule simply doesn’t hold true 100% of the time.

Write what you know. Many writers have been baffled and perplexed by this piece of writing advice. Writing what you know can be the very worst thing you can do. It stifles creativity and imagination; it doesn’t allow readers to branch out, it limits experience and emotional range. We must not take this advice too literally. Write about whatever you feel like - as long as you are feeling inspired and having fun this will come through in your writing even if you are pushing the boundaries and making it all up.

Have a protagonist that your readers will love. Your protagonist does not have to be a hero, in fact, your readers don’t even have to like them! They just need to want to know more about them, and therefore to keep reading.  A main character who is repulsive, nasty, hateful, obscure, can be just as intriguing and readable than one who is happy, courageous, funny etc. - perhaps even more so.

Make your book timeless. By this I mean, the rule where you shouldn’t include anything that ‘dates’ your book such as pop-cultural references. This rule simply isn't helpful and if you feel like it, just add as many as you like. The fact is that getting your book read by many people in the present day is difficult enough - dwelling on whether people in 100 years won’t ‘get’ a reference you have made should be pretty low down on your list of priorities.

Less is more. You know what? Sometimes more is more! Less is more makes sense when you are editing your book, where you are trying to cut down on unnecessary fluff. But great stories require detail; they require description, imagination, poetry. A good story is a work of art, and if you cut it down too much, it won’t flow or build or be enjoyable to read at all. Make sure you don’t get so preoccupied with the less is more rule that you end up making your novel nothing more than a series of statements and facts!

These common writing rules are ones that need an overhaul. One of the beautiful things about writing is how creative, imaginative and freeing it can be. So don’t let outdated, antiquated writing rules hold you back in 2018. Write the way you want and the way that feels comfortable, natural and inspiring to you, and you’ll enjoy the process more - and end up with something better and more genuine too.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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