Monday 15 May 2017

"Oh You Should Never Do That..." - The Creative Process


Last week I talked about how I was a hybrid in regards to how I planned and outlined my books. That led to a ton of questions about whether I was just *not* a planner and was more of a pantsa. I thought I was clear, but I figured that while I was going to continue on this subject, I'd clear up a bit of what I meant in my last advice piece.

When I said I was a hybrid I meant that I do both. I plan and outline some books to the point of not really having many surprises, but for other books, I have the bare minimum of a chapter plan and off I go. Both of which combined together make me someone who straddles both ideas - hence the term hybrid.

Since then I've come across a couple of things that made me think I should do another advice piece on how not following other people's rules of writing is okay. Without naming names, there's an author I follow who gets a ton of advice questions, and we disagree on a few things, but as far as her advice goes, it's spot on. Except the other day she was asked whether or not you should change POV in a book. To be clearer, let me explain. The anon wanted to know if it was okay to switch between 1st Person POV in one chapter to then use 3rd person POV in another. The author's reply was something along the lines of "you should never do that." And...that brings me to my post.

It's something I heard a lot in my first years of writing. It's something a lot of people who write or create have a whole ton of opinions on. And I'm not exempt from that, by any means. But I'm also aware that, as I said in my last post, there are no real hard and fast rules when it comes to writing. And in the case of switching POV's in books, it's been done and done well before. A few that come to mind are: Christine by Steven King, Bleak House by Charles Dickens as well as a number of the later books in the Alphabet series by Sue Grafton.

This isn't meant as a criticism to that author, everyone has their own style and way of writing, but something I do hear a lot is: Don't ever do this. And then the this they mention is actually something you can do. I was talking to a friend about it, and she was quick to point out that even some classics have been done where punctuation isn't even included in the novel. While I don't recommend you do that for your first book, my point is that the rules of writing are, and always have been, flexible.

I've been writing for so many years, been published for nearly twelve and have had many ups and downs as I've found what works best for me. One thing I have always been clear on is that as far as writing goes, pretty much anything goes. There are rules, but those rules are flexible. So long as you're properly editing and formatting your novel before publication then you can pretty much do anything.

I can hear you all cringe at the idea that people shouldn't follow rules to write. But writing is a creative pursuit. It is something people with skill do. I'm not suggesting people word vomit onto the page and publish. I am suggesting that with every creative outlet, there is wiggle room as far as hard and fast rules go. I am by no means an expert on writing. I've never claimed to be and I'm certainly not claiming that now, but I am a writer.

I've had an unconventional way of doing things, I always have, and I'm okay with that. Authors opinions will differ on so many subjects. We get told to show and never tell, when actually they both have merit. We get told to avoid passive voice, a good rule of thumb. We also get told to only write this way or plan that way, and to do this trick to avoid writer's block, and that tip to make sure we're writing what readers want to read. And so on and so on.

As I've said, not an expert, but I think a lot of the time, new writers are told to do x, y and z to guarantee success when actually they should be focusing on just telling their story. That's what writer's do at the end of the day, we tell stories. So when I'm told, or I hear someone being told "Oh never do that" it makes me wonder: why not?

I do what works best for me, and in doing that have written my stories. I do wholeheartedly agree that you should learn the rules of writing because then you can learn how to bend them. As always though, your mileage may vary, and that's okay.

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