Saturday, June 16, 2012

Breaking the Writing Rules

I hadn’t intended to write any blog entries until I’d finished the editing and re-writing process for my fantasy novel, Magic All Around.  Last night, however, I had a minor epiphany (while falling asleep, of course) and who am I to argue with my own brain? 
During the past few months, as I wrote my first draft of Magic All Around, I have been BREAKING RULES.  You know the rules that you find in all the how-to books about writing?  Yeah, those rules.  I’ve broken the rule about not sharing my ideas and material until the book is complete and I’ve broken the rule about hard work.
Broken rule #1:  I have been e-mailing my work-in-progress to a cadre of my closest friends and family every week.  In return, I’ve received a river of love, encouragement, cheer-leading and valuable ideas and edits.  The enthusiasm of my beta readers has moved me to tears on several occasions over the past three months.  Rather than taking the wind out of my sails (as those how-to books predict), I’ve felt supported, energized and ever more confident.  It’s thrilling to know that people I love come home from work on a Friday evening looking forward to reading what I’ve written.  So, I’ve flagrantly broken this rule.
Broken rule #2:  All the how-to books tell me that writing is very hard work.  I’ve tried to work hard.  I’ve genuinely tried.  The problem is, it’s too dang fun!  The more I aim for working hard, the more fun I seem to have.  I find myself chuckling over dialog and bouncing in my chair as I write exciting scenes.  I mean, really!  Shame on me, right?  No blood, sweat or tears in this novel.  I’ve done some hard work in my life.  I’ve done back-breaking work and I’ve done heart-breaking work.  This writing stuff is nothin’.  So, I’ve broken this rule, as well. 
Right about now, you’re probably wondering what the big deal is.  Gee, I’m breaking some rules; ho-hum.  It’s working for me and I shouldn’t complain.   I’m not complaining.  It has worried me, though.  Rules are important.  They’re there for a reason.  There should be significant risks and consequences in choosing to break rules.  It’s part of my personality; I take rules seriously.  I’ve broken some huge rules on occasion, but never casually and always because I’ve decided that it was the right thing to do.  I’ve been troubled by the ease with which I’m breaking these writing rules and by the seeming lack of consequences.
This is where the minor epiphany comes in.  Last night, while dozing off, I realized that all those lovely how-to-write books that I’ve read are like cookbooks.  Each book gives a single recipe for writing.  Following a recipe yields a certain result.  Follow this recipe and you get rhubarb pie, follow another recipe and you get smoked salmon.  Both recipes yield delicious results but neither is the one-and-only recipe.  In fact, neither is even the one-and-only recipe for rhubarb pie or smoked salmon.  If I follow someone else’s recipe, the result may be a delicious rhubarb pie, but it won’t be Marcy’s Delicious Rhubarb Pie.  In writing, much more than with food, I want my product, my creation, to be unique and reflective of me.  It’s my prerogative and, maybe even my responsibility, to play with the ingredients and the process.  I’m not breaking rules, I’m modifying recipes.