Last week (I think it was) the flist and really, the internet in general was all a'flutter about the 10 Rules for Writing Fiction that appeared in the Guardian. It was a riff off Elmore Leonard's original ten rules with several more writers weighing in with their own rules. Since then, it's taken off as a meme of sorts, with other authors offering their own rules.
So here's the thing about most of the rules, especially as delivered by good old Elmore: I hate with a raging passion, any "rule" or bit of advice that starts with either "never" or "always." No, seriously, it sends me into a frothing at the mouth sort of rage. Because you know, writing is an individual pursuit, unique to each practitioner. What works for one writer may be a crashing failure for another, and I've seen far, far, far too many writers torture themselves that they aren't following these so-called "rules."
And yeah, yeah... I get that most people who use terms such as "never" and "always" would claim they're simply being assertive and, you know, right, but I've never been one for blindly following. It's my nature to question. So as far as I'm concerned, most "rules" can just bite my large Cuban patookie.
If I were to have rules it would probably go like this:
Don't follow a rule unless you find it works for you.
If it works for one book, don't assume it's going to work for all the rest.
Try your best to be flexible.
Try your best to be open-minded; after all, who knows where the oddest seed of a story idea might lead you?
Don't be afraid to kill your darlings, but for heaven's sake, save them in a separate file. You never know when they'll be useful.
Try not to limit yourself by assigning parameters or labels to what you're writing. (This is the one I struggle with the most, btw, mostly because it's been hammered into us via industry expectations.) In other words, just write. If you don't, then you won't have anything on which to pin any rules, will you?
Yeah, so I'm not Elmore Leonard and I'll probably never have his success, but for me, these work.
- Ten Rules Meme