writeafirstnovel

follow a rookie writing his first novel

Writing and rule breaking

When we first start to write, generally speaking we do it from the heart. Then we learn about the rules of good writing and see just how much our first missives sucked.

So, we write something else and are studious in applying the said rules and our work, though now about as vital as a corpse on Valium, sucks a little less.

We write more, the rules become hardwired into our brains and are much less obvious to the casual observer and with luck and perseverance we barely suck at all; maybe even someone else thinks it good enough to part with some of their children’s inheritance and pay us for writing it.

Then just sometimes we read someone elses work and the rules just don’t seem to apply to them. Their writing is divine despite breaking just about every writing rule you can think of. I just finished reading a book by Martin Amis called ‘Money’ and in my opinion he is one of those writers. I had read somewhere that despite his, shall we say, ‘challenging’ personality, he was genetically incapable of writing a boring sentence – whoever they are, they were completely correct. If you’ve never read any of his work, I urge you to do so – forget the story, genre, or topic its the sheer artistry in construction that will blow you away.

 

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6 thoughts on “Writing and rule breaking

  1. I had a great advantage early in life, which is that my father used to say, “There is only one rule in writing: write well.” This gave me a healthy skepticism about “rules” like always kill your darlings, eliminate all passive voice, eliminate all filter words, etc. I think you learn a lot more about good writing by reading great writers than by learning “rules” from people who are not great writers. When Orson Welles was getting ready to direct his first film, he didn’t go to film school; he screened John Ford’s Stagecoach every night for a month.

    I haven’t read Martin Amis (which I should), but I’m currently reading Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day (which will take a while — it’s over 1,000 pages). Some parts are rather dull, so far, but if nothing else there are his sentences. All of which are great (he doesn’t get enough credit as a great writer of sentences, IMHO), and many of which have passive voice and filter words and the rest. 🙂

  2. As somebody who tends to write pretty much the way she speaks, rules are not my biggie, although I do follow some and I do edit what I write heavily.

    The single biggest piece of advice I was ever given, and I offer it here to you, is when you sit down and write the first draft, to close the door, yes that one, but also on the critic in your head.
    You do not need this person at this stage.
    Do your writing from the heart, ignore the critic. Get it down. All of it.

    When it’s written, open the door, invite in the critics, including the biggest one you will ever have: you.

    Best of both worlds, I think.

  3. I envy people that can write like Amis. For me it’s like pulling teeth, but I trudge on knowing in my heart that one way or another I’ll succeed.

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