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This Writing Life: Because Nobody Told Me I Couldn’t

30 September, 2011

When you’re learning to write, there feels to be a constant bombardment of rules. It’s not just submission guidelines (though those are a pain in the arse all their own) – it’s rules like ‘stick to the three-act structure’, ‘make sure your hero is sympathetic’, ‘don’t let style get in the way of story’. These rules always seem bandied about most frequently in the world of genre fiction. We’re constantly told that ‘different’ doesn’t sell.

Now, I’m not saying that these rules aren’t there for a good reason. Hanging your story around the three-act structure is a good, easy way of improving pacing. An unsympathetic hero will turn many readers off. I even wrote about keeping your style simple in my last Writing Life post. There are times though, when I simply don’t stop to consider the rules. Times when I do something that’s probably stupid, and knowing that I do it anyway – because nobody told me I couldn’t.

Thus, for example, my current novel has siv POV characters, a strange, meandering three part (but not really three act) structure and is about – of all things – Domesday Book. Sort of. Looking at that, it reads like the most ridiculous piece of writing I’ve ever attempted. It probably is. It’ll probably never sell, either. But at the same time, I’m both enjoying it immensely, and I’ve learned a great deal in writing it.

The best way to improve your writing is to write, pure and simple. As unpublished writers, we have a freedom unlike any other: we can write anything. Sometimes, it’s ignoring the rules, and doing stupid things just because nobody pointed out they were a bad idea, that produces the best results. And if the results are terrible after all? Well, you’ve probably just learned more than any number of three-act short stories could ever teach you.

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One Comment
  1. 30 September, 2011 12:36 pm

    (pointing at Amy) What she said!

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