Howdy, howdy! I recently talked to a friend from my critique group about some comments I sent her on a story, and she mentioned the notion of writing rules. These are the things that get constantly reiterated in writing programs (like our MFA program). We’re told all of the things we can and can’t do. Meanwhile, authors who are getting published are breaking all the rules and no one else seems to care. Does that mean the rules are really suggestions? No, not necessarily. It simply means people are choosing to break the rules that don’t work for them or their stories. Some of them do this more successfully than others, in my opinion. But I’m glad I learned the rules because breaking them deliberately tends to work better than breaking them because you don’t know any better.
But here are three of the rules of writerhood that I never follow:
1. Write EVERY day, even on holidays and when you’re sick. Because everyone knows you’re not really a writer unless you write a bunch of words every single day and never take a break. Except, that’s complete bullshit and anyone who tells you otherwise is a Liar McLiarson. Yes, it’s good in the beginning and helps train your brain to take writing seriously, but beyond that, it’s just not possible and you shouldn’t feel obligated to work that way if it doesn’t help you. Personally, I need a weekend, even though I mostly just sit around and play mindless games. Self care is important and you deserve it. Plus, who wants to write after they’ve been up all night projectile vomiting (just an example)? It’s okay to take breaks.
2. ALWAYS read your work aloud. This is great advice if you’re practicing for a reading or if something doesn’t feel right and you can’t figure out what it is, but I don’t like reading things out loud. For one, I feel stupid doing it. But mostly, I don’t want to read my novels out loud because I’m lazy. It would take forever at the pace I speak. Plus, the voices in my head make reading silently more interesting for me and I can hear when things sound abnormal in their voices, whereas if I’m reading aloud, I might find out where I stumble over phrasing, but I’ll miss things that feel natural to me even though my character wouldn’t actually say it. So, reading everything out loud isn’t for me.
3. Adverbs are BAD. This is one of those rules that I ignore when I’m writing, but follow when I’m revising. Yes, there’s usually a better way to say things than using adverbs, but I’ll be damned if they aren’t awesome in a first draft (which is the writing part of writing for me). It’s difficult to think of the perfect phrasing when your goal is to get words down on a page. That’s where adverbs come in handy. Sure, there are better, more evocative ways of saying “she walked slowly upstairs,” but it’s a perfectly acceptable phrase for a first draft. You can decide in your edits whether she trudged, or hobbled, or snuck (sneaked?), or whatever. But adverbs are great placeholders until that point.
So yeah, those are a few of the golden rules of writerhood that I break. What about you? Are there any rules of your craft that you don’t follow? Anything that seems like it was created by an overzealous person who didn’t understand that not everyone works the way they do? Feel free to share your thoughts, comments, etc. here or on my social media pages!