Are you breaking rules in writing? I am delighted to introduce you to debut author Cheryl Fassett. Our editing work together ended months ago, but since then Cheryl has been hard at work preparing her middle-grade fantasy novel, Far Away and Ever After, for publication. Now that this enchanting book is available for everyone to enjoy (and I was enchanted by it), Cheryl agreed to share some thoughts about her journey and The Rules that surround being an writer.
We are given rules in every area of our lives. From the time we are toddlers, we are guided by the don’ts, the dos, the nevers. Sometimes these rules are in our best interest: don’t touch a hot stove, never run with a sharp knife, always chew your food. But sometimes rules are constricting and limiting.
Many rules in writing are as arbitrary as being told not to wear white after Labor Day. One person’s helpful suggestion is the next young writer’s block.
I feel strongly that certain writing rules were just made to be broken. Not the grammar and spelling rules—those are important and ensure that our readers will be able to understand us. But the writing rules that seem to appear in every magazine article and writing book can usually be ignored.
The first rule that I tend to break is “Write what you know.” When facing the herculean task of filling a blank page, my inner critic cries out that I don’t know anything. I have nothing to say worth reading! So to write only what I know would severely limit my prose.
Instead, I like to write what I want to know. The Internet is a researcher’s paradise. And let’s face it, a book or ten has been written on just about every topic you can think of. So if something intrigues you, look it up, Google it, search it on Amazon. You will soon know enough about it to incorporate it into your writing.
In my first novel, the main character visits a town of witches. I personally had no working knowledge of crystals, runes, spells, or the magical powers of certain herbs. But I knew that incorporating them into my story would make the scene richer. So I filled a notebook with information about these and other topics like them. I didn’t use a quarter of what I learned, but these notes helped immerse me into this imaginary world I was building, and I think my story benefited from it.
The next rule I always break is to write every day. I have a day job, a house full of cats, a husband, a love of reading and quilting, and a host of other things that demand my time and attention. I don’t have the time or energy to write every day. My novel took eight years from initial draft to publication because I would literally put it down for months or years at a time.
There are those who will have you believe that to be a true writer, you have to write daily. They are wrong. You may be a more prolific writer if you can sit down at your desk every day. You may finish your novel a lot faster than I did. But if you can’t sit down to write for a few days or if you find a project at work or school has stolen all your time from your work in progress for six months at a time, don’t fret. You are still a writer.
It is also important to remember that a lot more goes into the writing process than physically putting the words down. You research. You read so you may learn from others who have published before you. You rewrite, edit, tweak. You contemplate your characters and plot holes while you are driving to the day job or sitting in a meeting. You decompress with other hobbies, mindless TV, or dinner with friends. All of these are part of the writing process. If you can manage to sit and write words every single day, go for it (and I am JEALOUS!). But if you can’t, you are still a writer.
The last rule I like to ignore is the one where they tell you to write what will sell. For me, focusing on the potential commercial success of my story takes all the fun and magic out of it. When I was working on my novel, Twilight went through its popularity. If I were to follow this rule, I would have added a bunch of vampires to my story, and by the time it was published, I would have been way behind the curve.
Don’t get me wrong—writing something that will be a commercial success would be pretty cool. But that should never be your sole reason to write. I know there are authors who can churn out three or four formulaic novels per year to meet their publisher’s requirements. If this is your gig and you enjoy it, more power to you! But for me, this would take some of the joy and spontaneity out of the writing.
There are folks who love fanfiction and should by all means continue to write it. Some writers are jumping on the 50 Shades bandwagon and writing erotica with the hope of riding to some commercial success on Ms. James’s coattails. If these are your dreams, by all means, follow them!Please do not write your story based entirely on what you think will sell. #writetip #writing… Click To Tweet
But please do not write your story based entirely on what you think will sell. I think it is more important to write the story you want to read and worry about your audience later. During editing and rewriting, you can focus more on making it genre appropriate and gearing it toward a specific niche. During the writing process, when that messy, wild first draft is still in its infancy, just close your eyes and go along for the ride. Your story will thank you.
As you pursue this passion for telling stories and stringing words together, you will hear a lot of shoulds. Listen with one ear and file them away as one person’s opinion. There are a million ways to be a writer, and no two are the same.
Delia only ever wanted one thing—a family. And some friends would be nice too. Orphaned as an infant, she was being raised by her cold-hearted aunt, and was bullied by every other kid in school. That changed the day she found refuge in Sunny Rea’s bookstore. Best of all, Sunny Rea and even Ethan, the silent boy who lived with her, had become like family to her. But then one day, Delia arrives to find the bookshop covered in dust and locked up tight. Sunny Rea has disappeared and nothing is as it seemed. She is thrown into a magical world where an evil dark queen threatens to destroy the kingdom and Delia’s world beyond. Teaming up with Ethan, a talking cat, and a superstitious house elf who has never before ventured beyond the castle grounds, she sets out to find her missing friend. As the evil forces build against them, it is up to this group of unlikely heroes to defeat the evil queen, rescue Sunny Rea, and save the kingdom. If all goes well, she just might save the world, too.
Cheryl Fassett lives in New York State with her husband and a house full of cats. When she is not writing, or managing a group of physicians, she likes to read and quilt. She believes that there is magic everywhere and that everybody has a book inside them. This is her first novel. You can find her online at cherylfassett.com and connect with her on Twitter @CherylFassett.
Learn more about Cheryl here.
Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.