There is a contest I heard about, The Strongest Start, that asks participants to send in the first three chapters of a novel. The part that really appealed to me was that the novel did not need to be complete yet, because mine is not.
It was time for me to get input from other people. I sent off my first three chapters to a few trusted writing friends for feedback, then anxiously waited for their responses.
They all sent back good/helpful feedback, but one friend who has know me the longest and has seen my writing from the very beginning, said to me, "You're getting in your own way. You are letting the 'rules' dictate your writing."
- Get rid of the passives
- "was" is a bad word
- Don't use "ing" words
- Delete ALL adverbs
- Vary your sentence structure
- Too much description bogs down a story
- Each character should have a distinct voice
- Don't include "info dumps"
- avoid clichés
Then she made this profound statement that I plan to write down and hang up somewhere. "We get so caught up in making it good writing, we forget about making it good reading."
A light bulb went off. For the past few years I have taught classes about "the rules" of writing and I have worked with other writers on fixing up their manuscripts. I have immersed myself in the rules and now it has gotten the best of me.
What made this point crystal clear, was when my friend said the chapter that flowed and read really well was the third chapter. I told her this was a chapter I wrote about six years ago when I got the original idea for the book. Six years ago I wasn't letting rules dictate my writing.
Am I saying disregard the rules completely? No but what I am saying is we shouldn't let them be the guiding force in our writing. We need to let our creative self take the helm and be allowed the freedom to travel where it needs to go without all the rules getting in the way.
What do you think?