rules of writing

Every Little Thing You Do

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A writer’s style is unique, and has to be maintained. Or does it? I was a little surprised when I first found out that Richard Bachman and Stephen King were one and the same person. When I looked at the books again with that knowledge, I picked up a few similarities, but I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t been told. I’ve found books written by other authors that I think could have been written by me, so similar is the “style”. Jilly Cooper’s shorter stories are not at all the same as her biggies, like Riders and Rivals. Should she be criticized for playing with her style? If an author writes a horror story, is he not allowed to go on to write a romance?

There are some very fixed opinions about writing these days. How about the dialogue? That seems to be shouted the loudest. Stick to loads of dialogue, and your book will sell millions. Why do I have to have everyone chatting their heads off all the time? What’s wrong with descriptive writing? I like reading descriptive writing when it’s well executed. And God forbid trying to be poetic in any way. Nope, stick to the dialogue.

As far as genres and styles are concerned, I have no intention of ever restricting myself. Why make writing stories a terrible mission, trying so hard to stick to these so called rules, that creating a tale stops becoming the joy that it should be to do? All I’m getting from hearing these things, is that if you have your characters all jabbering away madly, make sure that you use very simple English – readers these days don’t understand big words apparently, and trust that readers are really good at guessing what you actually mean, or what anything looks like, you will have everyone love your books, and sell loads, regardless of anything else. As an avid reader myself, I find that incredibly insulting. If any of that were true, then Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World wouldn’t have made a penny, and from what I’ve heard, it’s doing alright.

My short stories were written very specifically to be whimsical and dark. Brothers Grimm meets twenty twelve. There are long sections of descriptive writing in both of them, but that’s the whole point of the exercise. It didn’t happen accidentally. They’re supposed to resemble dark fairy tales for adults. I like to think that most people who read them will get that. African Me is modern, and does actually have a lot of dialogue. Not because I concentrated on not being descriptive. It just happened that way. Shadow People is completely different again. How would you describe alien worlds and beings with dialogue?

“Hey, the sand here is green, and sort of glittery.”
“Yeah, wow. And that demon over there is really tall and scary looking.”
“I see that there are two suns here also.”
“And a spaceship even.”

Gripping stuff!

Trust your own instincts with the way you write. There are as many different readers as there are genres and styles. Obviously you are going to get things wrong. Some will love you, and some will not. Fix what you believe is wrong, but never be dictated to. I have a lot to learn before I find my “style”. I know I have to work on not writing sentences long enough to wrap houses in, and I tend to use too many ands, and, and…

It’s important to spell correctly. I won’t argue with that. I did use rubinesque at some point though. That’s not a word apparently, but to me it conjures images of buxom ladies eating grapes, so there it is. There are certain grammatical rules which have to be stuck to. But then again, the object is to enter the story, with a good novel, and not just read words in front of you, so bend the rules a little if it works. Write because you love it, and write the way you love to write. There are no guarantees that anyone will like what you do, but then again there are no guarantees that they won’t.