Sunday, August 26, 2012

Throwing Out the Rules

Photo obtained from Free Stock Photos.biz
Every week, I read the PostSecret blog when it updates. It's partly because it gives me story seeds and character traits, and because the speculation and back-and-forth on the LJ community devoted to it gives me some outside perspective. Mostly, though, it's because I'm fascinated with people's secrets, and I like to know what people aren't telling those around them.

This week, the last secret was a picture of a bear, with the text, "When you tried to teach me the technicalities, You killed my love for photography." The secret, itself, didn't stand out in my mind, but then a thread cropped up comparing the sentiment with that toward writing. One person noted feeling bogged down by all the rules, and others wrote of writing technicalities killing their love of writing, or hampering their creativity.

I didn't address it there, because I don't like to be confrontational, and I don't think I could've gotten it across without the context of my blog. I talk mechanics here. I talk technicalities. I talk grammar. I talk building blocks. Obviously, I think these things are important.

And I think it's essential that a story be written well. There should be a cohesive theme. The dialogue should ring true. The story's tone should remain consistent. The characters should be fleshed out and believable. There should be research put into your story. And so on.

Knowing all that doesn't negate that you have permission to suck, though. Getting your first draft down is a lot more important than that it's perfect the first time around. It'll never be perfect on your first try. That's why I have my sometime series on editing.

As you get more familiar with what you have to edit in, you'll write it correctly the first time, but there will always be something to fix the next time around. You'll realize you have to research something that'll take some digging, or you haven't yet figured out the ending to know what to foreshadow.

There are several ways of marking your text to go back to later. Some people put remarks in double brackets [[like this]], then do a Ctrl+F for the double bracket to find the remarks. This works just as well with any mark of punctuation you wouldn't expect to see doubled up. Others jot notes in their document. I use Open Office on my computer, but Word also has this capability; Scrivener does not.

Technical aspects of writing are important. Yes, writing is creative, and creativity can be stifled by too many rules and restrictions. Thousands of authors have managed, though, while following those rules and mechanics. If it's truly getting in your way, you have my permission to ignore every last rule. Misspell every other word in your first draft. Refuse to use punctuation. Throw words out onto the page as they occur to you, if that's what makes you finish that draft.

You're the one who has to edit it when you're done.

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