Posted in Writing & Publishing, Writing Tips

Why I Hate Writing Rules

There are eight hundred million and four writing tips out there on the internet (yes, that is an exact number). More than half of them contradict each other. Many of them only work for the people offering that particular piece of advice. And when I was a new writer, I ate those tips up. I read so many blog posts and articles and interviews about the right way to write. The right way to make a book. The right way to write fight scenes/dialogue/sex scenes/humor/suspense/description/an ending/etc/etc/etc.

I listened to the advice of my favorite authors most of all because, of course, I wanted to write something as awesome as their books that I loved so much.

So I tried writing a certain number of words each day. I wrote every day. I wrote at the same time every day. I wrote in a specific space. I followed an outline. I followed a formula. I plotted certain story points at 25%, 50%, 75%, etc the way through the story. I bent over backwards to follow these arbitrary “rules” because I wanted my writing to be good. And I wasn’t confident enough in my own writing to realize that it already was, and I didn’t need to mirror anyone else for that to happen.

So even though I have plenty of my articles here on this blog with writing tips and whatnot, what I’m trying to say here is that you don’t have to listen to them. You don’t have to listen to a single one of them. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, it just means you don’t have to.

I think as writers we like to hear about other writers’ processes and methods out of curiosity. It’s interesting to see how people tackle the same task differently. But that doesn’t mean there’s one right way to do it. There’s a million ways to do it, actually.

The important thing is to figure out what way works for you.

So feel free to let writing tips and the writing processes of accomplished authors guide you, but always remember that in the end, you’re looking for your own process. Figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. And the only way you’re going to do that is by trial and error.

I don’t like writing advice because sometimes they imply that writing is a one size fits all activity. And it’s not.

So knock yourself out. Read every writing article you can get your hands on—I did, and sometimes I still do—but learn to take what you need from them and discard the rest. Find what works for you, and be confident enough in yourself and in your writing to know what’s right for you.

 

What do you think of writing advice?

Write on, friends 😉

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Author:

Hello! My name is Katie and I like to write. If I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, running, playing with my dogs, or eating peanut butter ;)

4 thoughts on “Why I Hate Writing Rules

  1. I tend to read things like “You must write every day” as:

    “You should try to write every day, unless that means you will get no sleep, or be late for work, or not have any clean clothes or anything to eat. Then you should fix those things instead. But if that happens a lot, recognise that you either have to start eating takeaways or acknowledge that until something changes in your life, your novel will not get written. It is unlikely that day-length will be extended by an hour or two for your creative convenience.”

    And “You should sit down and just write” or “You should plan your novel with the same meticulous care as the invasion of a neighbouring country” as:

    “You should probably plan. Unless you don’t. But if you try it one way and it didn’t work (multiple times), you should probably try it the other way, no matter how boring or difficult it seems. In any case, just finish something.”

    But then, I like to reinterpret instructions into a more congenial form. It makes me a very irritating employee. 🙂

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  2. I just wrote something about this on my blog because I was/am? Frustrated with the constant call for cutting. It doesn’t work for me and my style. It feels hard to find something that is more appropriate for me and when asking for advice cut is always the first thing people say. I definitely need to find a more take what applies attitude. I’m working on it.

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