August 6, 2013

I don’t like rules, especially when it comes to writing.

I don’t like rules, especially when it comes to writing. 

In a lot of ways, I write characters instead of stories. Emotions instead of plot. At first, I didn’t think like this. Not at all. The countless times I tried to start and finish novels in the past were entirely focused on plot and action and the intensity in which things happened. But then I thought this: When I finish a book, a good book, I am left with a feeling at the end. Not a memory of plot or action. For me, finishing a book is very different than starting one, and that sense of emotional appreciation found only at the end of a wonderful read is the one I write for. 

Which brings me to rules. On writing, Maggie Stiefvater wrote this: “I was ready to write the book that only I could write. Because if it was about these things that were eating at me, it would have emotional truth, and no matter how great your plot or your hook or your legend is, if you don't have the emotional hook, it's just not going to mean anything to anybody else. It might be fun. But it will also be forgettable.” 

The wonderful thing about being an author is that there are no rules to writing a novel. Rather, there are very few you should actually listen to. Though you’ll find countless pieces of advice on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc, take it all in stride and find what works for you instead of what works for others. (Unless you’re querying. Then check some rules.) Honestly, no one knows it all. No author knows all the rules, unless they’re talking about the rules that work for them. When it comes to writing, the only rules you should ever follow are the ones that work for you. There will always be another who gets you, who loves what you love in the way of words and books. And even if it takes longer to find your way, rules and “must haves” and “should haves” and “if you don’t do it this way you fail” can only slow you down. Those types of rules don’t make things, they break things. 
So, I break rules. I don’t even bother with plot at the beginning. I don’t even think about it. My current WIP has a plot that has changed countless times, and it’s still not entirely worked out. My characters, however, are real to me. Alive. And I know what they do in the story will happen eventually. Plot always finds a way. When I write, I think about voice and character and background and who I want a character to be. I think a little about love, about life. What makes a character tick and breathe and love and hate. I try to write the books I can’t find, because no one else will ever be able to write those books. To write characters so vividly alive they seem to breathe, because if I don’t care about the characters, than why write it? I write emotions first, plot second. There is still story. Still action. Still intensity. But these are books about people, and that is and will always be my focus. 

That said, there are no rules. And in a lot of ways, my ideas here aren’t even about breaking the rules, but about finding ones that work for you. These are just ideas that work for me. What works for you?

1 comment:

  1. Great advice! My characters get so much into my head that they make appearances in daily conversation... like they can actively participate in my life.