Writing Rules

I am a sucker for a writing course. Or a how-to article. A this-is-how-I-write book. I am constantly looking for ways to improve my writing but I think like many writers I focus too much on the rules of writing and forget that writing is supposed to be about feeling.

How many times have you read a book that is technically a very good book – one that you know the critics would like – but it just doesn’t feel right?

I recently read a book that I really struggled to finish. Written by an esteemed author, whose previous book had completely blown me away, I just couldn’t help but imagining him with his plot grid in sticky-notes on the wall, scraping his mind for the most perfect symbols to win over the literary crowd. The story was entirely predictable until the spot where I think you could imagine him saying “right, this is where I get drunk like a good writer does.” And the story spiralled out of control.

Of course the rules are there for a good reason. As guidance. Writing is a creative process. You can bend the rules. You probably should bend the rules.

I particularly enjoyed what author Nick Falk said in this interview about how he searched high and low for the rules of writing – through courses and advice – and found that none of it worked for him.

I’m still going to learn the basics. Structure. Grammar. Exercises. Tricks for getting through writers block (hey, something might work). But I’m not going to obsess over learning how to write.

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