Archives: Writing Rules

Drafts, New Ideas, & Resistance

Drafts, New Ideas, & Resistance

Ideas can be new, a lusty temptation, a much-needed sledgehammer to break out of a plot corner, or a lethal form of resistance. Many are forgotten before pen, pencil, or paper scrap can be found.

Yikes, no pen, no paper.

Like you, I’m a writer. I’m in the middle of a draft. A challenging draft. It is especially tough because I’ve reached a plateau in my practice. I need to break through the current wall of resistance. I stepped away from the manuscript two weeks after a steady roll. Why? I had an idea. A good idea. A great idea (aren’t they all) for a new book. Writers have scads of ideas. They come over coffee, while driving, in the shower, or three a.m. Writers, hoarders of office supplies, are often without jotting basics when randomness hits.

New story ideas are exciting, like a second date, possibility without the tedium of attention or work. Sledgehammer ideas are gifts from the gods. They make the hero vulnerable, the villain likable, and the plot twists windy as a country road.

When’s the last time you dug under an idea to ask why this idea, now? If you are in the midst of a writing project, that you have committed to like marriage and a new idea pops up, resist the temptation. I know from sad experience I have to return to my steady title waiting for my return. I must pocket my sexy new idea for another time, the right and fulfill my commitment to write to finish.

Have you read Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art? If no, read it. If you’re not writing, if you claim to be blocked, if you think you’re writing is crap, or you don’t have the right inspiration — stop talking or actually listening to your corseted internal editor. READ IT NOW.

I don’t get a cent or an atta girl for recommending this book. I recommend it because it calls you, me and every other writer out on the elaborate, inane, and blockage generating lengths we will indulge to interrupt our writing and complete something, anything. Drafts are meant to be written not perfect.

Too many Rules — Too Little Confidence

Too many Rules — Too Little Confidence

Pick an author who has had publishing success and you will find an article or post with his or her 5, 7, 8, or 10 rules of writing. A few showoffs go for 10 or 12. Each post is the holy grail of the current silver bullet to writing success. Margaret Atwood takes a no-nonsense slant: No excuses –leave no words behind.

  1. Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.
  2. If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.
  3. Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.
  4. If you’re using a computer, always safeguard new text with a ­memory stick…

The list continues to point 10 as a practical guide to help you, writer, to stay out of your own way.

Hilary Mantel’s rules open with, “Hire an accountant.”Cheeky but good advice because at its core it implies believe in yourself and your success and you will need an accountant.

Writers who are trying to spread their wings seek advice. Why? Comfort. Growth. Validation. There are as many reasons as writers. There is a lot of advice that does not bear consideration. But how do you know? Do the rules begin with the word Don’t? Avoid them in 75% of occurrences. Better yet understand the DON”T; become comfortable with it and confident enough through your practice to question and break the rule.

What do I mean? I have four words for you Elmore Leonard & Good Writing. Leonard famously wrote 10 Rules of Good Writing:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why are his nevers and don’ts acceptable? Easy, read the full text, not the bullets. He wisely gives examples of writers who broke each rule and succeeded. How? They understood the dont’s and nevers with enough depth and confidence to break them when necessary, and to advantage.

If you need more convincing I suggest you read the excellent post from Anne R. Allen in 2016.

12 Stupid Writing Rules Currently Making the Rounds

Sadly, they are as current as ever. Another consideration for another time is how rules can become a form of resistance.

 

Happy Writing

© 2020 Lee Heffner – Author