Thursday, May 9, 2013

I Don't Need No Rules for Writing

How often do you listen to advice? Any kind of advice? And how often do you ignore it? I think as we get older we ignore more. We've already heard a ton of it by a certain point and as we go forward the old advice stored in our memories is really no different than any new advice we may be given; we also get to the point where we say, "Fuh-get it," and damn the torpedoes because advice is like opinions and we all know what opinions are like.

That's what I think, nowadays, when it comes to writing. I enjoy reading about a writer's routines and how he or she planned (or didn't plan) a particular book, but when it comes to their "rules on writing" which we see a lot, I have no use for their remarks. When I was young, I certainly did. Boy did I! I thought there was a secret in there somewhere and if I sifted through enough advice, I would find it. Instead I found a lot of tips that helped me when I was starting out. Those tips improved my reading as well so I could see what authors followed those rules and which ones didn't. After so many years, I have decided that "rules on writing" are only for the writers who write those rules and really don't apply to anybody else. Are you listening, Elmore Leonard?

On this wonderful website, Brain Pickings, you'll find a ton of information about writers on writing and their rules for it. We still need this stuff because there are always people starting out, either teens like me back in the day or grown-ups who have finally decided that now's the time to write "that darn book."

But I look at these articles now the way a seasoned veteran looks at a cadre of rookies. You smile as you think of all the neat stuff they're about to learn, and you feel satisfied that you yourself have learned enough that, while you should always refresh so as to never get rusty (and that's an important point), you also know enough now to make up your own rules.

Which, in my case, I only have one. Tell the story in the best way possible. If that means using an adverb, then I'm using every adverb I can think of and if Stephen King doesn't like it, fuh-get him.


  1. After years of honing my skills, it comes down to "Tell an interesting story. Be entertaining. Don't be boring."

  2. Yes! Boring is bad. Some might think that boring means slow; not necessarily. You can have a story slow down but still make it captivating. All of the "action" in THE MALTESE FALCON, for example, takes place off-stage, but there is not a boring scene in that book.