Friday, May 25, 2012

The Rules

Apparently when it comes to writing and getting published there’s this idea among writers that there’s a golden set of rules that one must follow.  Not ideas, or suggestions, but The Rules.  Some of which, to be totally honest, are beginning to bum me out. 

I write because I love it.  I write because it’s fun and it’s a way for an otherwise really, really, really shy girl to share her words with the world.  Sure, I understand that in order to get published there are certain things I’ll have to do and ways that I’ll need to tweak.  I’ve been a fanfic writer for the past thirteen years so I’m well aware that transitioning to the published world is going to mean changing up my style a bit. 
Writing fanfic is like writing for a soap opera that goes on and on, while writing for publishing is like condensing that soap opera into a movie.  Those slice of life chapters that really just serve as filler but aren’t really needed for the plot will have to be cut.  That, I can handle.
But when I talk about The Rules, I mean those things that every writer who blogs seems to talk about when giving advice about writing.  Those things that while although true for some simply aren’t true for all and yet somehow continue to be The Rules.
A blog post I read recently basically said that only the well known big name famous writers are “allowed” to write in first person.  Everyone else has to write in third person if they have any true desire to be published.  I call bullshit on that.  I truly don’t understand why some people hate first person so much.  I’ve heard people call it the “easy” and “lazy” way of writing (ridiculously untrue, IMHO).  People say that unless you’re writing for Young Adults you can’t possibly sell a first person book.  I read a lot of books, and I can tell you that not every first person book I read is YA or was written by one of the big names.  I personally enjoy reading and writing in first person.
It’s not that I’m opposed to third person; I just don’t have as much experience with it.  I’m still working on it, and have plans to keep building my skills.  But to say that the way that I happen to write is lazy, easy or flat out forbidden because it’s not the way that you write, isn’t cool.  Not at all. Not everyone likes to read the same things, so why the heck should writers all aim to write the same way just so it’s easier to get published? 
I don’t like when a book starts out too fast; other people insist that there be absolutely no backstory in the beginning of your book at all.  I don’t enjoy overly wordy descriptions of settings; some people love to read about the tranquil way that the waves pounded on the sandy shore causing the heroine to fall into a hypnotic dream-like state as she watched the froth of the waves form miniature bubble baths for the crabs digging their way out of their sandy homes. ;)  We all like what we like!
To tell me that I’m not “allowed” to write how I want to because I’m not a big name basically isn’t going to work for me.  I’m the one writing the book.  I’m not saying that I’m closed to learning or growing.  I’m definitely not going to be like Susan Minot who likes to write in run on sentences,  leave out punctuation, and have extremely unclear narrators.  (I seriously couldn’t get through one chapter of her book Evening because of her writing style and yet she’s supposedly one of the great writers of our time.) But I just want to write what I love and if I get bogged down by too many rules that will suck all of the fun out of it for me.  I find it hard to think that everyone who has been published, whether by a big name publisher or something smaller, has followed The Rules to a T.  In fact, I know they haven’t! 
Go walking through a book store and you’ll see all sorts of different books.  Sure, you’re going to find a slew of them that follow The Rules and many of them will feel like the same book with different characters and settings.  But you’re also going to find books that broke the mold in that bookstore.  You’ll find those writers who said, “Screw The Rules! I don’t want to write like that, I want to write like me.”
Did you know that Kathyn Stockett who wrote the book The Help had her manuscript rejected sixty times before it was published?  SIXTY TIMES!  But you know what?  She believed in her story and kept trying until it became a huge best seller and then an amazing movie that won Oscars.  By the way, it’s in first person and it was the first book she ever got published.  :) 
So what’s my point?  Write what you love and how you love to write it!  If no one wants to publish it because you didn’t follow The Rules, you can always self publish now, right? 
Happy Writing and Happy Long Weekend!
:),
Kellie aka Kelsey

2 comments:

Patricia Kiyono said...

Great post, Kellie, and thank you so much for joining our lineup of bloggers! I agree it's frustrating to be told what you should and shouldn't write. So many times the books that people remember are the ones that don't follow the rules!

Kelsey St. James said...

Thanks for commenting, Patricia! :) I'm happy to be a part of the GRRWG blog.