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.
- 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.
- If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.
- Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.
- 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.
Sadly, they are as current as ever. Another consideration for another time is how rules can become a form of resistance.