When I began this series with the very first post, I told myself (and all of you) I would never tell you how to write. It’s not for me to say; I have been writing something or other since I could hold a pen in my hand, which gives me roughly 22 years of experience on the subject, and I still don’t feel qualified to give advice.
I have, however, received a lot of advice on writing, much of it unsolicited, some of it useful. Lately I have seen a lot of posts by bloggers, authors, etc. containing lists of rules for writing a successful novel. Rules for avoiding elements, things that are overdone in writing, things new writers do wrong… you name it, and there is probably a list out there for it. It’s a thing now, people want to know the secret. How did you do it? How did you get so famous? What do I need to do to break through into the NY Times Best Sellers list? TELL ME!
I won’t tell you. Mostly because I haven’t done it myself yet, but also because I believe all those lists and rules are a lot of snake oil. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. In the end, we’re the ones who decide the outcome. We’re the ones holding the pen. All the rules and guidelines in the universe won’t make your story stand out if you don’t have a good story to tell. They might even smother your book, diminish its potential if they make you cut out what makes your story unique. Because that is what rules do: create cookie cutter novels for public consumption.
Here’s how I approach writing: