Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Rant, Because I Haven't Done One Yet

I found these linked on Neil Gaiman's blog:

There's some good advice in there about how to write, the best of which (in my mind) boils down to "Write". What I don't like is when advice gets set down as Rules. Writing isn't a game, and there is no all-hallowed Book of the Laws; you win no points for every page you complete without the use of adverbs, and your book will not be the subject of an exorcism for excessive description.

Now, before I go any further, I will clarify: I'm not talking about how to get writing published, or how to write better (which I define as writing for clarity of intent, for the greatest level of literary telepathy between author and reader). Those things, I'm still learning, and there may yet be gold-lettered Rules on iron tablets somewhere. But in the act of writing itself, there are no rules, only guidelines and suggestions, and anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

To be a writer, you sit down (or stand up, or lie down -- your choice) and write. Pen, paper, keyboard, typewriter, it doesn't matter -- your real tools are words (learn as many as you can, their meanings, uses and implications) and ideas. Find a coherent path from beginning to end and tell that story. That's it. Put aside any other worries about whether you're doing it right, and tell the story. Once the first draft is down in words, and likely the second and third drafts after it, then would be the time to start thinking about your favourite author's tips and tricks, or the house style of your ideal publisher, or the literary trends of the current era.

And I do mean, think about them. Understand and acknowledge why these writers, or readers, or editors make their suggestions or injunctions. Early drafts exist to be improved, and (to come full circle) there is a lot of good advice out there.

But don't just blindly follow the Rules, and don't let a fear of doing something wrong stop you from getting that first draft written.

1 comment:

  1. This is a pet peeve, but I hate it when writers act as if adverbs are evil. Why would that part of speech even exist if we're never supposed to use it? Sure, there's definitely such a thing as overusing adverbs. Sure, some writers use adverbs as a crutch to prop up a weak verb instead of using a stronger, more vivid action word. But that doesn't mean that there aren't moments when a properly-placed adverb is exactly what you need to express exactly what you mean.