I read a lot of blogs about writing. Something I’ve grown really tired of is the “how to be a writer” blog - as if this is something that can be conveyed in a few paragraphs. It isn’t that I don’t think there are aspects of writing that can be taught. I’ve taken writing classes and found them beneficial. But a one-size-fits-all list of dos and don’ts that you stumble across on the internet is something to be skeptical of.
If there are rules, they apply to everyone differently, depending on your audience and your specific writing goals. How many times have you been warned not to use adverbs? Tell that to JK Rowling. Or better: don’t. Adverbs have their place as does every other bit of language. A better suggestion would be to use all your words consciously, to understand where the rule came from and break it with that knowledge.
But even that makes me uncomfortable. It ignores the fact that there are writers with natural talent who don’t need to know the why of it.
The reason I love hearing writers speak about their particular writing process is that they all have something different to say. Some of them plot it out on color coded note cards before they type a word while others have no idea where the story is going and swear their characters battle them for control. Some have MFAs and others no formal training. Some write several titles a year; others leave one perfect book as their life’s work.
There are many different ways to be a writer. If you’re seeking commercial success, there are certain formulas for certain genres. There are rules for spelling and grammar, but even some of the rules about commas are flexible. Tense and point of view should probably be consistent. (Real anti-rulers are calling me a hypocrite for adding that.) But learning to “drop these seven words” won’t make you a writer. It’s just not that easy.
If you think I’ve just written a blog on “how to be a writer”, you may have a point. That’s the problem with giving advice to ignore advice. But maybe that’s not what I’m saying. Don’t ignore it; just don’t take it as gospel. Don’t let it subvert your own writer’s instinct. I think you should be very critical of the writing advice you take, including mine.