Friday, February 25, 2011

The Rule Haters

Further to the last post about defining the so-called rules of creative writing and working out how to break them effectively, it seems that this question is on a lot of lips and fingertips at the moment. 

I thought you might be interested in these recent posts.
Emma Darwin gives her take on tools for writers (stating categorically that they are not 'rules') here.
Claire King has a wonderful spoof post here ...
... which inspired this version from Vanessa Gebbie.

Within those posts and the comments on them, there are yet more versions of various authors' takes on the subject.  When I pull all this together, it's going to be interesting to see to what extent there's a general consensus.

UPDATE: See here for Guardian article listing personal versions of the rules according to a very impressive list of sleb authors.  

Mind you, the full article is so long it could take valuable time to wade through that would better be spent ... writing.  Isn't that the first and only non-negotiable rule?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Rule Breaker

Many of you will know that one of the things I will be doing at the Festival of Writing in York (not far away now) is running a workshop on Breaking the Rules.

I chose this topic as I know how people can get hung up on them there pesky 'rules' of creative  writing (though 'guidelines' might be a better word).  It's easy to internalise them to the extent that they stifle any creative spark that's struggling to push its way out from your clogged-up brain.  Just as it's about to emerge, blinking in the sunlight, it's clobbered by someone wielding a big stick and shouting, 'You can't do that!'  And that has to be a Bad Thing to anyone who loves shaping words into stories and doing something different and fresh.

On the other hand, I've edited countless MSes that don't work because the POV switches round so much the reader gets dizzy, or where it's impossible to work out where you are in the timeline. 

So what I want to do in the workshop is to define what those so-called rules are and why they matter; to demonstrate what the consequences are of breaking them and stress that an author neeeds a good reason to do it ... and then provide the tools that will enable people to go ahead and do just that.

As one of the lovely people on WordCloud has said, it's like teaching a child to cross the road safely. It's best to cross at the lights, but as you grow up, you realise you can step out elsewhere, as long as you know what you're doing and do so with care.

So far, I've come up with POV switches, sticking to a linear chronological structure, not switching tenses or between first and third person, prologues and a few others.

What's on your list?  Anything I'm missing?

Friday, February 11, 2011

So good I had to share ...

This post may well throw you into a pit of despair - but it will make you laugh while you tumble down.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Horses for Courses

If you're seeking help with your writing, there are a number of options.  You might think about joining a writers' group - either in real life or online.  If you're looking for a local group, this is a good place to start. 

Perhaps you'd prefer the sort of detailed feedback you can only get from having your book professionally critiqued.  According to this article more and more publishers are insisting that authors submit MSes that have already been through a thorough editing process.  One publisher is quoted as saying,
I cannot purchase a book I need to spend 40 hours editing.
(That article was written in Canada, but the same could equally apply elsewhere.)

Or maybe you'd prefer to hone your skills in a creative writing course or in a workshop.

If that's your choice and you're not looking for something as heavy-duty as a degree course, there are enough options out there to suit everyone.  These are just a few coming up shortly and, before anyone checks to see whether there's a degree of self interest here, I freely admit that these are ones I'm involved with.

Fancy an intensive one day workshop in London or Oxford for £99 including lunch and refreshments? The Writers' Workshop run a range of workshops for people who are just getting started and others for people who are looking for the skills to self-edit their novels.  Then there is the one for screen writers, the one for ...

Oh dammit.  Do I have to do everything around here?  *grumble mutter grump*   Why not just go here and see for yourself.

If you're looking for something a bit more hard core, howzabout the mini courses and workshops available at the Festival of Writing in York, 25-27 March?  You can book for one day only or for the full weekend.  Included in the price is the opportunity to pitch your book directly to agents and publishers or to have your writing assessed by a professional Book Doctor.  To see what some of last year's participants feel about the experience, check out this blog post and the comments.  One of the commenters describe the Festival as 'like speed dating with a politburo of writing experts'.

Or maybe you're prefer something you can fit in more easily with your own life.  In that case, you might consider an online course, like the 6 week self editing course I'm running together with Emma Darwin, beginning in April.

If all this costs more than you can afford and you can't find a local writers' group that fulfills your needs, there are places online where you can talk about all aspects of writing, as well as getting feedback on your own work.  It will come as no surprise that I personally recommend WordCloud as the best online community.  And it's free to join. 

Writing may be a solitary pursuit, but you are not alone unless you choose to be so.