That might be how you feel about rules, but not me. See, I wanted those darn rules. I thought I needed them, that they'd make me a better writer. That they were the "one true answer" and when people who were published told me the rules, I tried to follow them, never mind that Expert A's rules contradicted Expert B's rules and Expert C's rules made no sense. I tried them all. And I got completely discouraged when I just couldn't make them work for me.
Originally Posted by Laer Carroll
Instinctive writers such as myself might not like rules, but for me, it's because they're irrelevant. I need to write, and to write a story, I need to finish the writing. That's it. Creativity really isn't about following a formula, though you can create by doing so. The rules are just methods that work for some people and not others. And rules can be anything, from "I need music to write" to "I need to outline." Rules are personal.
Of course, if you want people to be able to understand what you write, then spelling, punctuation, and grammar play a part, but even then, you can fudge a bit depending on the effect you want and how well you can get it over. You don't need to "master" anything to do that. Some people can do it without any prior experience. It's just in them to do so. How it got there can vary, too.
Here's the definitions from Merriam-Webster Online:
1 a : a prescribed guide for conduct or action b : the laws or regulations prescribed by the founder of a religious order for observance by its members c : an accepted procedure, custom, or habit d (1) : a usually written order or direction made by a court regulating court practice or the action of parties (2) : a legal precept or doctrine e : a regulation or bylaw governing procedure or controlling conduct
2 a (1) : a usually valid generalization (2) : a generally prevailing quality, state, or mode <fair weather was the rule yesterday — New York Times> b : a standard of judgment : criterion c : a regulating principle d : a determinate method for performing a mathematical operation and obtaining a certain result
I can see that perhaps 2a might be workable as a definition I wouldn't immediate discount for this, but I also think it's fairly useless when applied to writing as it feels after the fact to me, not something to guide someone.
The whole rule as guideline doesn't work for me. I much prefer suggestions and ideas and perhaps "things that work in general and might work for you" sort of things. But rules, by connotation even more than denotation seem to be things more set in stone and when it comes to writing, too many people take them to heart, my younger self included. I'll never get back those 10 years of missed chances and experience, but at least I've gotten past that paralysis and self-doubt.
I can't recall the author, but basically her "trilogy" was the editor splitting her large novel into 3 parts which were published as separate volumes in different years. As far as the author was concerned, she wrote a novel.
That applies to even the lowest levels, such as how to spell a word or form a sentence or paragraph. It applies to the very highest, such as how to write a trilogy or manage our writing careers with the proper mix of short stories and novels.
Oh, and plenty of novelists have never written a short story in their life, or if they have, have never gotten any published or had success with that form. Because some people are natural novelists and some are natural writers of the short form.
Statements like yours above is what drives me nuts about a lot of writing advice.
I call them interesting ideas that work for some people and not for others. And please don't include me in that "we." Some people spend a whole lot of time thinking hard about what they say or write. Others not so much. Some should spend more time thinking before uttering. But this isn't about the human brain so much as about how each of us finds our process. Statements about brain function don't help writer A figure out why s/he can't write the same way writer B does.
We may call them rules, guidelines, theories, hints, suggestions, or other terms. But whatever we label them, from the instant of birth or even before we learn hundreds of thousands of them. We use them almost wholly subconsciously, especially when we create utterances. We can do this because our brains are massively parallel computers orders of magnitude more sophisticated than our mechanical computers.
Interesting. I'm not in my story. At all. I'm being told a story by the characters. I am watching it sometimes on a mental screen, but that's more likely at night, in dreams. When I'm writing, it's more like being dictated to. I'm the typist and at times, I have to work out some details, but I'm never in the story. It really doesn't feel like that. Although I do feel intimately involved with my characters. Just not as I'm writing.
When I write a story I am "in it" and feel I am a reporter. I am intent on getting down the most important parts in just enough (and only enough) detail. Later, when I can slow down a bit, I can back up and fill in what I had no time to put down earlier. That slower and reflective time is when rules/suggestions/hints come in handy.
Sometimes, my first drafts are as you describe. Other times, each sentence is perfected before the next. Other other times, I get everything at once and just need to tweak. Or I toss the whole thing as crap and redo it next session. Every scene I write has its own way of being written.
Nice. For me, I just reread as I go, and after the thing is finished and fiddle til it feels right.
Even later, when essentially done with the story (or a good chunk of it if a novel) is when rules/guidelines are most useful to me. That's when I critique what I wrote, then shift back into creative mode and fix what I wrote.