Wednesday, August 1, 2012
The Insecure Writer and Letting The Rules Rule Your Writing
Today is August's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.
This month’s insecurity is a little different from the ones I usually discuss. My previous entries have focused on my insecurities about being a writer and how I deal with them. This time I want to focus on a more subtle insecurity – a fear of the rules.
We writers are inundated with rules. Showing versus telling, dangling participles, too little interior thought, POV shifts, too much interior thought, head hopping, etc. You know the drill. And while I have learned enough rules in the last two years to last me the rest of my life, I wouldn’t consider myself comfortable with them. At best it’s an uneasy truce. And therein lies the problem.
You’ve probably all seen posts and comments by agents and editors bemoaning the fact that so many of the submissions they receive are lacking in voice. The authors have tried so hard to make their stories sound professional that all the voice and style have been beaten out of their manuscripts.
And I’ve begun to realize the same thing is happening to me.
Years ago, I discovered my natural writing style tends toward the whimsical, which, I suppose, is one of the reasons I enjoy reading Douglas Adams, JKK. Rowling, and Eoin Colfer. It’s definitely one reason I’m attempting to match Rowling’s style in my Hogwarts story. When I’m in a whimsical mood, early drafts flow like water and life is good. But when I get around to worrying about whether I’m following all the rules correctly or when I’m focused on sounding more authorly (whatever that means), much of that whimsicalness disappears – along with my voice -- and my story no longer sounds like a Harry Potter type of story.
I’m not saying I need to abandon the rules to get my voice back. That would be a disaster of epic proportions. I just need to become comfortable enough with the rules that I can naturally incorporate them into my voice. Of course, there’s no guarantee anyone will care for my voice once it's out there for all to see, but that an Insecure Writer’s topic for another month.
Question: Have you ever let the rules of writing take away from your natural style?