Wednesday, January 4, 2017

In Support of Rules

Thought for the day:  Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself, and celebrate writing. [Melinda Haynes]

HAPPY NEW YEAR, y'all!!!

It's hard to believe, but here we are, dipping our toes into yet another brand new year. YOWZA! As we embark on this journey of new beginnings, let's hope we're all wise enough and fortunate enough to make the best of the year ahead of us. Cheers!

Today, like the first Wednesday of every month, is IWSG Day, when writers all over the world share their problems, air concerns, and celebrate successes. As always, thanks go to ninja writer Alex Cavanaugh for coming up with this nifty idea. To join the group and see links to other IWSG posts, please go here



Woo HOO! I don't have a single thing to complain about this month. Slowly but surely, we're crawling back from the flu, and my brain is starting to hum like a well-oiled rusty machine again. That means the words are finally starting to flow again, and I hope to get back into the groove again very soon. Every word I scribble in my notebook and type on the computer may not be keepers, but like Jodi Picault said, You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page. 

I do have a couple of other things to share, though. This first thing is painfully obvious to me now, so I'm probably the last writer on earth to figure it out, but just in case I'm not, here goes. When you sit down to write each day, don't complete the scene. That's right. Stop writing when you've still got a good head of steam and know exactly where you want to go next. That way, when you pick it up again the next day, you're revved up and ready to go. I've discovered that if I complete a scene, it's much more difficult to get going again. It's not quite as bad as coming up with the perfect opening sentence and paragraph for chapter one, but it's certainly in the same ballpark.

The other thing? It's a book by Don McNair: Editor-Proof Your Writing. Good stuff! (And I'm not just saying that because I already ascribed to most of his guidelines about writing clear prose, either.) Seriously. No matter where you are in your writing journey, there's a lot of helpful stuff in this book.

One last thing before going on to this month's question. Next month, I'll be (gulp) attending a book club for the first time... to talk about my book! That's kinda exciting, and kinda scary. It's being held in a private residence, and I have no idea how many members will be there. I've given speeches in front of hundreds of people before with no problems, but I must confess, I'm a tad nervous about how to proceed with this intimate gathering. Any suggestions???

Okay, now on to the question of the month: What writing rule do you wish you'd never heard?


Um... rules? There are... rules?

Seriously, it's not like the writing police are gonna swoop down out of the sky and slap a fine on us or throw us in the pokey if we break any of the traditional rules of writing, but I don't regret knowing the rules... even if I don't always choose to follow them.

In some cases, a strict adherence to rules results in prose that may be technically correct, but also stilted and unnatural-sounding. For example, we all learned it's improper to end a sentence with a preposition, but contorting a sentence with the explicit purpose of avoiding that dangling preposition can result in proper, but barely readable prose.



I think we should all know the rules, because grammar does matter. But I also think we should allow ourselves the freedom to create, and to bend the rules as we see fit. Or as Picasso put it, Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist. 

How about you? Has your creativity ever been stifled by adherence to the rules... or have you always been an artistic rebel?



Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

58 comments:

  1. I am so glad to hear that your brain is starting to hum again. Rules? I either follow them slavishly or ignore them. I do like to know what I am adhering to - or not though.

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    1. Thanks. My brain may be humming off-key, but at least it's making some noise again. :)

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  2. Hi Susan - just adhere as best you can to the club's requirements ... while bringing your character into the melee ... it'll be fine. I'm a rebel too - but have learnt I try and do what is necessary in the circumstances ...

    So glad you're both feeling better - have a lovely 2017 .. cheers Hilary

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    1. HI-ya, Hilary. Happy New year!

      Yeah, I think that's the secret in being an effective rebel... knowing when it's okay to do your own thing, and when it's smarter to toe the line.

      Cheers back atcha!

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  3. "creativity stifled by adherence to rules"? heck no. I begin and end sentences with all kinds of words I shouldn't. It just reads better that way a lot of the time. And who made up these rules anyway?
    Happy New Year.

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    1. I like the way you think. :) Unfettered freedom to create can lead to great things.

      Happy New Year to you, too.

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  4. Wow, very cool about the book club! (And as someone who suffers from anxiety, I can easily see how it'd be scary, too. LOL.) Hope it goes smoothly for you next month!

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    1. Thanks. I think the book club thing will be fun. (Guess I'm gonna have to read my book again to refresh my mind. HA!)

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  5. I usually try to stop writing for the day in the middle of a scene. I find it really helps, especially during NaNo.

    Yeh on the book club! You'll do fine! Since it's in someone's home, it'll probably be more relaxed, more of a social gathering.

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    1. See? You, and probably every other clever writer in the world, already knew that trick about stopping in the middle of a scene. That's okay. It may be an "old" trick, but it's "new" to this old dog. :)

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  6. So glad you've recovered from the flu. Good luck with the book club. I did one of those and it was just lovely - intimate and warm.

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    1. Thanks, Karen. At least we've progressed from the "one step forward, two steps back" to a more optimistic "two steps forward and one step back." :)

      I'm sure the book club thing will be fine. I just have too much time to "think about it"...

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  7. That is a neat way to do it stopping in a scene. haha if the writing police were real I'd be in the pokey many a time I think.

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  8. Good luck with the book club! I hope the experience is a positive one for you.

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    1. Thanks! I plan to make it a positive one. (If nothing else, I think they'll have CAKE!)

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  9. welcome back and here's to a healthy 2017. Excellent post. In regards to book club, you'll learn quick enough the different personalities in the group. One is a grammar nazi, one wants more dialogue, one questions your plot, etc - hope they present their concerns nicely. If it is mean critique - leave. If it's worthwhile input, shake out what works for you and build from there. I bet it's fun and gives you a new perspective. Enjoy and keep questioning those rules.

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    1. Hi-ya! Thanks. It's good to be back.

      Gee, thanks. It never even occurred to me that the folks at that club might be interested in flaying me with their critiques. :) Nah, I don't think so. The gal who invited me loved the book. I think. That's what she said, anyway... oh, crap. Guess I'll find out next month, eh?

      Happy New Year!

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  10. I always say that writing rules aren't law.

    As for the suggestion to stop writing before you end a scene, I can't do that. Nope. I have to finish the scene or chapter. I can't help it. It's how I write. :) But I can see how it can help writers who struggle to get back into writing later.

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    1. Fancy meeting you here. I just finished writing my "interview" with you for the 20th. :)

      It's cool that you don't have to resort to stopping mid-scene to jump-start your writing the next day. My brain needs all the encouragement it can get to keep going. :)

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  11. I'm a humble rule follower. Not the rebel type at all.

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    1. Oh, dear. I had no idea you were such a good fibber. :)

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  12. I admit to hovering around the grammatically correct when I write narrative, but with dialog, all bets are off. Folks just don’t speak that way—at least in my world. :)

    Relax, breathe, and just be you. You will shine at the book club!

    Wishing you a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2017!

    VR Barkowski

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    1. Not in my world, either. It drives me crazy when writers don't even use contractions in their dialogue.

      Okay, yes ma'am. I'll try.

      And the same right back atcha. I may not be "shiny" at that book club, but let's hope our new year is.

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  13. I actually had never thought of that whole don't end a scene thing, but it makes total sense. Consider US the last writers to get the memo, then.

    As for rules, that's a delicate balance, isn't it? Rules were made to be broken, sure, especially in the name of creativity, but it irks me when I see someone who clearly doesn't know how to write writing very poorly and just excusing it all by saying they're rule breakers. No, you're not a rebel, you just don't understand basic grammar/sentence structure.

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    1. Thanks, guys. Nice to know I wasn't the last to figure it out. :)

      Absolutely. There's a huge difference between breaking the rules as a means of artistic expression and not knowing or caring about the basics of writing.

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  14. I'm glad that you're recovering from the Flu Bug and are back in a writing mode.

    As for rules:
    I avoid them whenever possible. When it comes to writing, I mostly rely on instinct and what's in my heart (and a good book on English grammar).
    One of the many writing rules that irks me is "Write about what you know". It's basically a good idea, but I prefer to keep expanding my limitations.

    As for that book club meeting - just be yourself and you'll charm everyone. If you start to feel intimidated, visualize everyone as they would look naked, sitting on a toilet.

    Writers are wonderful people. It would be far worse if you were in a room with politicians....

    The very best to you and your family in 2017!

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    1. Thanks. We're getting there, slowly but surely.

      I agree with you about that "writing what you know" stuff. If I were limited to only writing about the things I already know, that'd be a mighty short book. Besides, for me, half the fun of writing is in the research.

      HA! Picturing them naked, I've heard before, but sitting on the pot? I think I'll skip that image. And these folks won't be writers... they're readers who've read my book! Cool, huh?

      And the very best to you, too, Jon. Happy New Year!

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    2. Oh, thanks for clearing up my misconception of the book club. It is definitely more intimidating to face people who are readers, not writers.

      Well, your book is great and I'm sure they will be gentle.
      If not, just CLOBBER them with your book.

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    3. Clobber 'em, eh? Too bad my book isn't in hardback. :)

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  15. Happy New Year Susan... I wish much joy and health for you and your family xox

    I am a rebel when it comes to writing, I do like to spell and punctuate correctly. I like the idea about writing whatever as you can always edit xox

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    1. Happy New Year to you and yours, too, Launna.

      Rebellion can work in good writing, but misspelling a word or screwing up the punctuation would give me a rash. :)

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  16. The only times I have allowed rules to constrict me is when I had to follow them in order to enter a contest. Otherwise, I mostly listen to my own drummer. Great post! Happy New Year to you and yours!

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    1. Good point! Contests can be specific about rules. :)

      Happy New Year to you and yours, too. May you do lots of marching to your own drummer this year.

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  17. Susan, a dangling preposition is something up with which I'm afraid we must sometimes put. Also, you'll find your book featured in esteemed company on latest "Trainride..." post, but you'll have to hunt for it. Glad you're feeling better. Best wishes for you in this brand new year!

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    1. Happy New Year, dear dude!

      HA! Yep, your example of dangling preposition avoidance is exactly what I'm talking about. (Um, of which I am talking?)

      Cool! I'll go check it out. But since I knew you had a copy of my book, I already knew it was in esteemed company. :)

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  18. I like the quote about not being able to edit a blank page!

    I had to think about writing without completing a scene or a chapter. And then it made sense to me...because that's how I read.

    I'm convinced you'll have lots of fun at the book club meeting!

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    1. Oh no, no, no! No way I could possibly stop reading in the middle of a scene, not unless there's some kinda emergency, and it had better be a serious one! (Which explains why I read books so quickly... I'm obsessed!)

      Happy New Year, B!

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  19. Congrats on the book club and great advice about stopping in the middle of a scene! Genius! I'm going to try that :)

    Jess
    www.jessicatherrien.com

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    1. Thanks! I'm kinda looking forward to the book club gig. Kinda. :)

      I hope the stopping in the middle of a scene works well for you.

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  20. LOL love the cat pic. So accurate.
    I love your tip about stopping in the middle of a scene! I'm going to give that a try. Assuming I ever actually write another scene.
    Glad to hear the flu is being banished. Hope you are back to 100% soon and that you have a great time at the book club!!! That's wonderful and I'm sure you will be a big hit.

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    1. :) Yeah, our cats are big-time rule breakers. And they're so doggone nonchalant about it while they're doing it, too. Like, "Oh, you mean I shouldn't be on the kitchen table today, either...?")

      Of COURSE you'll write another scene, you silly girl. Happy New Year!

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  21. So happy you're getting well! Have fun at the book club - looking forward to reading about it here. Sometimes a rule needs to be broken, but you can't break it if you don't know what it is :)
    Happy 2017!

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    1. Ab-so-doggone-lutely! Gotta know 'em before you can ignore them. :)

      Happy New Year to you, too!

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  22. Happy New Year, Susan! Saw your book on the bookshelf of Geo., - AND, as you know: it is in my Kindle. So: what about insecure writers? You are a writer. Best wishes. Britta

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    1. Dear Britta,

      Happy New Year!!!

      It was a very pleasant surprise to see my book featured on Geo's shelf, especially alongside such good company, but like I told him, since I knew he had the book, I already knew it was in good company. :)

      I'm not sure, but in many ways, I think the words "writer" and "insecure" are somewhat synonymous.

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  23. I like that meme.
    A story by the rules would be so awkward to read. Take any of them to the extreme and it would be a mess.
    Happy 2017!

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    1. Me, too!

      I think taking just about anything to extreme can lead to a huge mess. (I sure hope our folks in D.C agree.)

      Happy 2017 to you, too!

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  24. Hooray for your book club reading! How about giving a little back story on how you came to write the book. Then do a little reading and after answer questions. Simple, but personal, too. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks. Your suggestions sound good. The gal hosting the meeting is supposed to get in touch with me to give me directions to her house, and I'm hoping she'll fill me in on what she has in mind. I may bring a copy of "Old Broads Waxing Poetic" with me to use as a giveaway. :)

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    2. Hi Susan, That's music to my ears! I know you'll do a great job at the reading! Just be yourself and let the magic of your characters shine through. I love that you're always trying new things and aren't afraid to go out of your comfort zone, I'm glad you're both feeling better.

      Happy New Year!

      Julie

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    3. Hey, kiddo! For whatever reason, your comment didn't show up via email, so it was a real pleasant surprise to find it here. :)

      Anyhow, I don't know that I'm as willing to go outside my comfort zone as you think I am. Then again, my "fat pants" ARE getting larger and larger, so maybe my comfort zone is, too.

      Happy New Year to you, too!

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  25. "Or as Picasso put it, Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist."

    I absolutely LOVE this. That's my new rule!

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  26. I try to avoid rules at all costs when it comes to creativity. I don't have much and any attempt to stifle would stop it dead, so I just let it roll.

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    1. You're a smart man to let your creativity roll, but I think you have a whole lot more of it than you think you do.

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