An Analogy That Bears Repeating
Think of yourself like a baby race horse.
Baby race horses don’t know anything about racing. They just like to run. They run almost everywhere. They run with each other. They run alone. They run around their mother. They run around their pasture.
They’ve already been running for 12 to 18 months before they ever see a saddle. That’s when they start learning what racing is all about.
What Does This Have To Do With You?
If you’re just starting out, you’re like that baby race horse. You should be writing for the fun of it. Finding your “legs” by telling the stories that move you and are on your heart. Don’t worry about “learning the rules” at the beginning.
The rule of thumb is that a writer has to write one million words before they’ve written enough to have developed a voice and a style. You really do need to write on your own so that you learn who you are as a writer and what types of stories you like to tell.
The beauty of it is that by then, you’ll have somewhere between three and six stories told (I had six) and you’ll be comfortable enough with your story telling style to have a good foundation.
You’ll also have discovered the method of writing that works best for you. And you know what? It won’t be exactly like any other method that anyone else uses!
But What About All Those Rules?
Am I suggesting that the rules of good writing are bad? Not at all.
But even the most ironclad rules of writing are a reflection of current markets according to the professionals. They’re arbitrary. They will change. Just give them a little time.
Why is This Important?
If you spend all of your early writing years learning the rules and learning to adhere to them, two things are almost guaranteed to happen:
- You’ll never find your unique author’s voice
- By the time you’re ready to publish, you’ll have to relearn the rules
Trust me. I know it sounds counter intuitive but I know it happens. When I was in high school (lo, these many years ago), there were very specific rules about comma use. When I went to college a few years later, the rules about commas were different.
When I decided to become a serious novelist, there were certain rules I was told could never be broken.
There are Rules That Should Never Be Broken today but they’re not the same rules as in 2008!
It’s a lot better to find and develop your voice first, then apply the rules to that foundation. If you do, you’ll always have the foundation of your author voice and the rules can be applied to that foundation–or not as you see fit.
So just write, especially in the first draft stage. Don’t worry about where the comma goes, whether or not you should use italics, or how to avoid all those evil “ly” words (tongue in cheek; I happen to think “ly” words have an important place in literature).
Oh. And one other thing.