Friday, April 7, 2017

Writing Rules (are Often Alternate Facts)

I get tired of endless "writing rules" lists given out by every halfway decent writer and craft blog.  Most rules aren't rules, have never been rules, and will never be rules.  They are merely tips, helpful to some writers but potentially harmful to others.

Below are some of the more common "rules every writer should follow" and why they aren't always beneficial.

1.    Write every day.

Many disabled/neurodivergent writers can't write every day for various reasons.  Telling a disabled writer with migraines the week he can barely function should be spent writing is damaging.  It tells him (and the rest of us) we're not dedicated, that it's a moral failing and we'll never reach our goals because we are too lazy. It might cause us to hate ourselves or push ourselves until the point of injury.

2.  Nothing beats a pen and paper.  Get away from the screen.

And what about writers who can't write longhand?  Some of us can't hold a pen, much less compose a novel with one.  Every rule that states there is only one way to do something is almost always wrong and excludes a bunch of people.

3.  Keep a journal.

Journaling can be a healthy outlet and a primer for future words.  But it can also take the little bit of time someone with chronic illness has to devote to their current project away from them.  A person might only have two days a week (or less) where they feel good enough to write. The focus should be on where the writer needs it most.

4.  Never take more than X amount of time for Y project.

Why?  Why does a task have an expiration date (if not trying to meet an editor's deadline)?  Even the people who give this kind of rule can't agree with one another on time limits.  How long is writing the first draft of a novel supposed to take-- three month, a year?
A lot of writers use these as a yardstick to measure their success.  If it takes them longer... they feel like a failure.

5.  Seek advice on your work... and act on it. (Said at points with no caveats.)

Another set of eyes on a writer's work is helpful.  Telling people to trust that someone else automatically knows the work better than they do is not helpful.  Some people have confidence and/or social issues that make a blanket statement about near absolute trust almost dangerous.

I could go on with these.
Many writers admit there are few (to zero) rules of writing that can't be broken.

Write when you can, as true as you can.  Learn new things when you get the chance.  Read in whatever format works (braille, audio, large print, etc.).  The rest will come.

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