by Peggy Bechko
“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”? W. Somerset Maugham
It’s funny and it’s true. Of course I could get nit-picky and start talking about language and all the rules needed to write properly. I could go on about the mythology behind stories, story arcs, beats and how to construct one the ‘right way.”
But I won’t.
There must be some rules somewhere, but where? And you know what, why should we care?
After all, storytelling is as old as the human race. Look, of course we need some language rules in order to put our stories down on paper – or on the computer – and be understood. No argument, but really, the other rules are just what some people came up with to try to outline what it takes to write a story.
I’ve been asked many times for help by newer writers. How do you write your books? Where do you get your ideas? How do you write all those words? How do you cut what you’ve written when it’s so dear to you? What’s the structure of the novel as you understand it?
Wellllll, I’m pretty much a set-of-the-pants writer though I admit to having done some teaching. In person and online. In fact I have a romance writing course at UDEMY right now called Romancing Your Novel and in that class I provide hints and tips and direction along with encouragement, but no rules. Same for when I teach in person.
The truth of the matter is, there may be rules, but Somerset Maugham got it right, nobody knows what they are. Not really. Some act as great experts, but believe me, whatever rules there are are regularly broken as a new style, a new voice is heard from.
If you’re a reader you know it well. You try a new writer, find a new voice and you’re in love all over again.
If you’re a writer you know it just as well – and for the same reasons – in addition to many more. A new style emerges. A new crossing of genres appears. You like reading it. You love writing it. Your writing evolves as time passes and times change. Life is change. That’s what it’s all about.
So, those rules, wherever they are, can stay there. My reading and writing tastes will change. That’s okay. And I’ll come across some of those rules along the way, probably take a bit of time to understand them, then promptly break them.
That’s just the way it is.