Maria Popova of The Marginalian points out the quantity of books available on reading and writing, both advantageous pastimes, is likely to far exceed a single human being’s lifetime. Browse the web and one soon realises the truth of her words. However, she also points out this should not be a barrier to bettering one’s relationship with the written word.
I have always read articles and blogs, not so many books, about the different (vastly so) advice other writers have given over time on how to be a good writer. Recently, I have returned to researching newer guidelines, and re-reading some of the tried and tested.
Apart from some weird and wonderful input from equally weird and wonderful people, the basic rules remain reasonably constant. The magic ingredient is how we, as writers, play with those rules. There lies the key to individuality.
Many well known authors, from all types of background, have passed on their personal do’s and don’ts. The majority of them have a common thread. Some are presented very tongue in cheek, making me smile – now they are good writers, I think!
These ‘condensed’ words of advice, in the main, are easy to digest, and uncomplicated to remember. So, why is it not simple to write a masterpiece? Either a novel, or a short story, or a poetic work?
I believe it is because, with all the advice in the world, one has to forge one’s own path. Along the way, the author can introduce into their writing the seed of any bit of heeded advice but must ultimately make it their own, caressing it into the fabric of their work.
Writing is personal. Writing is about what an individual wants to say. Writing is an author being true to his/her self. ‘The Golden Rule of Writing is not about conformity… But write it with intention.’ (Eric Cummings)
So, as writers we need to be purposeful in our craft. Encourage readers to crave our word pictures, persuade them to ingest every morsel, and nourish their imaginations.
Neil Gaiman says ‘Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.’
If this bi-weekly content seems contradictory it is because it is! The reality is to know the rules but know how and when to mould them to give your personal style free reign.
- For more timeless wisdom on writing, see Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 rules for a great story, David Ogilvy’s 10 no-bullshit tips, Henry Miller’s 11 commandments, Jack Kerouac’s 30 beliefs and techniques, John Steinbeck’s 6 pointers, and Susan Sontag’s synthesized learnings.
- The One Golden Rule of Writing That You Can’t Ignore