Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Writer...ask yourself

Writer, ask yourself, have you been able to hold on to the passion you first had for writing, when your heart would swell and words flowed onto the page? Or have all the ‘writing rules’ caused your confidence to plunge. Do you fret over using a word ending in ly or ing? I’ve talked to aspiring writers who are so paranoid about it that they are daily battling writers block.

Go back to those great authors who first inspired you to write and learn from them. Devour their novels. Study how they use point of view, narrative, dialogue. How they structure their plots and flesh out their characters. They are our mentors and can teach us more than any rulebook ever could.

Consider these opening lines.
Elizabeth Chadwick writes in her opening in The Marsh King's Daughter the following.

It was a glorious May morning in the world at large --- soft, balmy and harmonious. At the home of Edward Weaver in Lincoln, however, a violent storm was raging.
And in her novel The Scarlet Lion, she gives us a vivid image of her heroine .

Isabelle sat at her embroidery with her ladies. Pulling away from winter, the light had a pale clarity that meant more intricate sewing could be undertaken. Bending an attentive ear to the chatter, she was glad to hear a lively note in the women’s voices, for that too, like the return of the sun and the sight of birds building their nests, was a sure sign spring had arrived.
In Phillipa Gregory’s novel The Constant Princess . . .
There was a scream, and then the loud roar of fire enveloping silken hangings, then a mounting crescendo of shouts of panic that spread and spread from one tent to another as the flames ran to, leaping from one silk standard to another, running up guy ropes and bursting through muslin doors.
Some might call this style of writing flowery. It would be for some genres, even some imprints. But for historical fiction, it is their voice, their style that landed them on the best-sellers lists.

Some writers say, ‘best-selling authors can get away with breaking the rules. New writers cannot’. That's another way of saying if you do break the rules you’ve written a bad novel. If our best-selling authors can and do break the rules from time to time is that to say they write badly?
Opps! There's an ly word in that paragraph!


Jessica said...

Good post Rita! A great story, and great writing, is so much more than not using certain words.
I feel like all these "rules" really do stifle creativity.
That said, there are certain elements of writing that make for stronger craft (if that sentence made any sense, lol).
It's such a balance sometimes. I don't agree that new authors can't break rules either. Once I read an interview with an editor and she'd never heard that writers shouldn't use dialogue tags. That really struck home for me.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

When I compare these fabulous opening lines with my efforts, I cringe. Back to the drawing board.

Susan :)

Jill Nutter said...

Hey Rita,
I'm procrastinating!:) I'm having the worst time focusing on a new book I'm starting. I blogged about today hoping that would help and it did a bit but I'm still not writing.
I think you recommended somewhere on this blog a while back how to write fast. I think that's what I need to do and forget the rules again till I get through the first draft. Thanks for the post.

Rita Gerlach said...

Hi Jill,

Sorry to be late in answering this. It is called rapid writing. Get yourself a nice notebook for your book, and write out scenes by hand. This has helped me so much. I am able to focus better.