Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stay True To Your Style

It's Wednesday!  I don't partake in WIP Wednesday, because I already keep track of my daily progress on the left side of the blog.  Pretty much the whole reason I got a blog, so I could guilt trip myself into working harder when it's obvious I haven't done much writing lately.  I like reading everyone else's progress.  Though, I like ElanaJ's spunky attitude too.

Beauty and the Beast opens tomorrow.  I am in love with the Beast.  And Lumiere.  I have a special place in my heart for Lumiere.  He was Bun Fu in Thoroughly Modern Millie last year, and I loved him then too (unfortunately, he's gay, but I can dream).  He did some pretty fabulous/hilarious improv when Cogsworth the clock missed his cue today.  This is quite honestly one of the worst tech weeks I've been involved in.  But I've seen disasters magically pull themselves together on opening night, though, so I'm keeping my hopes up.

Okay, be open-minded before I say this.  Don't come after me with pitchforks.  Ready?

The past week I was frustrated with my writing.  Everything I wrote seemed awkward and crappy. It took me hours to fill a page.  Bad.  Very bad.  I don't have hours to spare.  I've been reading craft books voraciously recently, and while this isn't the entire reason I had some writer's block (I hate using that term; I like to pretend writer's block doesn't exist), I realized something important. I was trying way too hard to shove all of those minute details of good writing into my head, and then concentrate on all of them as I wrote.  This is not a good idea.  I repeat, don't do this.

For one, as I reread Twilight (yes, I am rereading Twilight), I noticed Stephenie Meyer kind of...sort of...breaks every rule I've learned.  Seriously.  She doesn't start her fantasy with an immediate mention of fantastical elements (paranormal, whatever).  On Miss Snark's First Victim, one of the biggest criticisms of the first 250 words for a fantasy is, "I don't see the fantastical element."  Plus, SM's dialogue tags?  She never uses "he said, she said."  It's always, "he chuckled, she spat, he scowled, she stalled."  (Now, I'm not saying SM is a literary genius, but like I've said before, she's published, she's successful, and she can tell a damn good story.)

It got me to thinking.  I've been such a Nazi with my own dialogue tags.  I decided, it's okay to use one of those words sometimes.  The world will not fall down.  Personally, my own story is quite obviously a fantasy within the first two chapters, but big freakin' deal if it's not.  It's okay to use "was" sometimes.  The sun will still appear over the horizon in the morning.

In other words, don't let your obsession with the rules make you lose your flair.  Don't box your writing style into a neat, uniform package.  Don't read supposedly "good" writing and decide to imitate it exactly.  Do you get what I'm saying?  I don't really even get what I'm saying, but it makes sense in my head.  Too much standardization can scrub away charm.

Disclaimer: This is not permission for you to engage in bad writing.  Don't think, "Oh, well suckiness is just my style."  Yeah, suckiness can be your style if you don't want to get published, ever.  But I'm saying it's okay if you bend the rules occasionally.

Captain Barbossa says, "We consider them to be more like guidelines."

That is my insight for today.  Feel free to discuss, disagree, whatever.  


  1. Well said! Having the freedom to use different dialogue tags and other words makes such a difference to writing output. Plus, there are always the edits! (which have me groaning a lot but going 'whoohoo' when I reach the end of a chapter).

  2. Now you know I'm not going to be coming at you with any pitch forks considering how much I love Twilight! Regardless of what she did wrong in the book, she did something so darn right that it created mass hysteria around the globe. Read know what to avoid but there's so much to learn there too.

    Ohh I never realized I broke that rule with not introducing any of the "fantasy" element until later in my book. In one of my first drafts it was in the prologue and now it's like chapter ten!

    Good luck with the show! Bad practices can equal great performances, right? Hmm, I hope that's right!

  3. I don't even think twice about most of that stuff until I'm done with the first draft. One of my bad habits is to overuse food metaphors and comparisons. I doubt I left any of those in, but the ones that did stay were there because I thought it fit my style.

    Of course, now I'm obsessed with introducing some kind of supernatural element to the opening chapter.

    Guidelines, definitely, or else I think we'd go a little mad. Too late? ;)

  4. Oooo yummy! I'm having the same realization as you! I have been going over my manuscript *cough*again*cough* and tried to edit all that stuff out and noticed that it took away some of what made it my story. Now I didn't cram the dialogue full of static verbs but slipping one or two in isn't going to make the writing bad. It grounds us in a way, you know. Ladeedee, anyway, tally-ho with the writing love, it isn't going to write itself!

  5. I never got what the big deal was about not introducing the fantasy stuff upfront. I mean, especially if it's urban fantasy, I don't expect an elf to randomly pop up within the first five hundred words of any book I pick up. But nonetheless, if that is what agents are looking for, I think I am safe. I'm not urban fantasy, of course.

    I am at a happy place in my writing at the moment. Good luck to you all! And yes, I agree that rule-adhering isn't too much of a concern until the revisions part of your writing.

  6. *grin*

    I'm generally very good with rules--except when they feel stupid. Then I break them all over the place. But I guess the important thing is to know the rule before you break it, and break it for a reason. I think sometimes writers forget that most readers are not writers and won't read things the same way writers do.

  7. So true. When I read books for pleasure, I try really, really hard to turn off the "writer/critic" part of me. It's been difficult since I've been working on my novel. The truth is, though, most readers won't notice the problems writers do.