More thoughts on writing rules

Paula Renaye, author of The Hardlines Self-Help Handbook had an interesting response to my earlier post on writing rules. As she said I could post her thoughts, here they are:

“It’s funny, we all approach a topic from our experiences and our own lens. When I first started writing, I wrote a 400-page western historical novel without ever reading a book on writing or attending a writer’s group. I was an avid reader and I just wrote naturally in the way of the books I read. I won writing contests right off  the bat and then got involved in a writer’s group–Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers–and started learning that there were rules and I wasn’t following them.

Well, of course, I wanted to get published so I tried to adapt my writing. It killed my creativity and it took a long time to come back from it.  In fact, it took doing something I swore I would never do– write in first person–to really snap me out of it.

I’m glad I know the rules, but I don’t fixate on them and I will never ever write in the Dwight Swain or Jack Bickram way as I tried to. It’s just not me. Nope. You read my fiction books and you will find run-on sentences that go on for days because that is how one character speaks. I’ve had a couple of bad reviews on my books through the years and they were typically from literary types that were appalled at my characters, setting and dialogue. The reviews I value the most are the ones where people write and complain they nearly choked to death by taking a drink at the wrong time when reading. I love those!

When I taught writing workshops, the very first thing I would do is explain that I didn’t care if you were a good writer and could craft perfect sentences, what I cared about was whether or not you could tell a good story. So, yeah, I do encourage people to forget about “writing” and just “tell the story.” If you’re rewriting a sentence, paragraph, or chapter over and over, you are not busy storytelling”

I love what Paula has to say about this, and hope you do, too.



One thought on “More thoughts on writing rules

  1. Carol J. Garvin

    Like Paula, I wrote my first novel without reading a how-to book or having a clue about rules, character arcs, plotting, etc. Unlike Paula, my first novel wasn’t note worthy. I’ve read lots since then, and am the member of three writing organizations. I like to think I’ve learned lots but when it comes to writing novels (my fourth now), I still just barge onto a page and let fly with words. Of course I do a lot of revising afterwards, but I’m okay with that. When I tried to outline first and follow rules I lost interest in telling the story. What works best for me is finding a character, jotting down a few ideas that will give direction to his or her story and its ending, and then getting to work on the writing. I think I’d like Paula Renaye’s book. I may just have to go hunt it up. 🙂

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