Write smart. Write well. Write whatever.

| Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Today's Tune: This Too Shall Pass

Outside Lands in San Francisco was AWESOME, by the way. Because I knew you were interested. I got to see a bunch of amazing bands and eat a bunch of delicious street food and it was fabulous.

Back to the grind!

So, goodness knows that we writerly types can suffer a serious case of the Self-Doubts. The realm of writing and publishing is big and scary. There are so many RULES. There are all these rumors about agents with shark teeth who will snark you into oblivion if you stick a toe out of line. And the worst part? All these rules and preferences seem to be largely subjective and contradictory. It's enough to make just about any wannabe author cower under the covers of their safe, warm bed.

Mmmmmm bed. Anyway.

A lot of newer writers who are just starting to learn the ropes often have all kinds of weird questions to ask, especially when they have the ear of a publishing professional. Which is awesome! Knowledge is power! But more and more, as I watch the questions that pop up repeatedly, it becomes clear that many "young" writers (in experience, if not in years) are completely under-confident in their abilities and want someone to reassure them that they're doing it right.

So I'm here to tell you: if you're writing and you're enjoying what you're doing, then you're doing it right.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not the sort to be all "rah rah, do whatever you want, ignore the rules, and if the publishing industry doesn't understand your art, it's because they're great big dumb-dumbs!" Because I do not believe that. At all. I believe that writing with style takes time, effort, and discipline, and even then it might take several tries before you write a manuscript worth selling. Them's the breaks.

BUT. I also think it's important to write the way that works best for you. As long as you've put in the effort to understand the technical and stylistic elements of writing, you can do almost anything you want.

If you're wondering if it's okay to write in a weird style or break Writing Rule #342 or get all experimental, the answer is yes. It's okay. It's all okay. Go nuts. As long as you're doing it well, you're doing it right. After a certain point, when you've learned enough and written enough, it's okay to start being confident in your work. You don't have to seek permission to experiment, because in the end, it's impossible for a subjective party to tell you that something is 100% never okay. It's always about the execution.

So hold your head up high and do absolutely anything you want. I will forever and till the end of time espouse that the rules exist for a reason and you must know them in order to break them, but break them you can. If you can make it work, then shoot for the sun, dudes.

Don't bind yourself to someone else's personal preferences. Even the hardest of the hard-nosed literary agents have been known to fall head-over-heels for something they should completely hate, but someone managed to pull it off with flair.

I think the moral of the story is this: Write smart. Write well. Write confidently. And write whatever you damn well please.


{ Taylor Napolsky } at: August 17, 2011 at 7:34 AM said...

ha it sort of feels like mixed messages in this but I guess I know what you're getting at. You're basically saying, keep going

{ Margo Lerwill } at: August 19, 2011 at 10:44 AM said...

It's a koan. I love writing koans!

{ Emy Shin } at: August 21, 2011 at 7:14 PM said...

Lovely post, Steph, and so very true!

I'm one of those writers who have no confidence in my writing. None at all. But I'm beginning to see that writing is so subjective. Even as a reader, there are correctly and perhaps gorgeously written books that don't work for me. And there are books that break the rules that just work. As long as it works, any writing style is fine. :)

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