ON PARIS

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris ... then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

#IWSG April 2021. Risk taking in writing.

 Hello all!

Hope your month has been awesome. I'm sure this month will be interesting as we hear about risk taking in our writing.


Before I get into the question ...

Be sure to visit Alex's awesome co-hosts for the April - PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton!


Here is the whole April 7 question - Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?


So ... what does it mean to be a risk taker? A person who tries new things. Is that you? Is that me? Do we try new things in our writing?

To me, writing itself is risk taking. You could devote twenty years of your life to it and never finish anything, never publish anything. That's okay if you just love writing, but I want my writing to go somewhere. Do you? 

BUT ... our writing can be flummoxed by so many writing 'rules' - (here's just a few that annoy me) -

* 'as' must come first in a sentence unless it's a comparison, 

* you mustn't repeat the same word in a paragraph, so you're forever looking for synonyms to, for example, 'withdraw' which may not fit as well, 

* then there's the 'you can't start a book/chapter with the mc waking up,

* show don't tell - if you use 'show' all the time, your book will be twice as long! Sometimes you just have to get to the point already! 

* then there's the - no head hopping except in a romance ... blah, blah, blah.

I'm leery of 'writing rules' because I'm an avid, prolific reader and I see all of the above 'rules' broken by popular authors constantly (oh, and don't use *adverbs! Grr). And careful with *backstory. I read a lot of women's fiction and sometimes at the beginning there are pages of backstory. Can't say I enjoy that, and sometimes I throw the book across the room wondering how they got traditionally published, but what the heck, these are popular books which are best sellers on Amazon so there's a market. Breaking that 'backstory' rule hasn't hurt these authors who I imagine just sit down and write their story using their tried and true formula which keeps them on the best seller list in their genre. Pish to the rules they must think.

So is part of risk taking author behaviour breaking the above (and plenty more) writing rules? Do the writing police read our books? I think not. 

But I think the person who came up with the question this month wasn't referring to writing 'rules' per se. 

Other than breaking 'rules', my risk taking includes tackling issues. Not everyone likes this. A lot of readers read to escape and they don't want their equilibrium shattered by issues of domestic violence, patriarchal behaviour, PTSD and so on which you're going to find in my books when I publish. But I like books with issues, so that's what I write. There's a saying, 'write the book you want to read' and that's what I do. I don't set out to be controversial, I try to be real. Who doesn't struggle with something in their lives? I love books with issues and the mc overcoming in the end.

Thanks for reading. I'm sorry for my rant on 'writing rules' but sometimes I think they're pushed on newbie writers just to slow us down and keep us forever editing and never publishing. 

What's your view on this? Do you stick to the ever-changing 'rules', or do you write the way you want to?

~*~

In a little over a week, the April WEP challenge goes live. Here is a chance to write about an issue, if you haven't yet taken that risk. If you like tackling issues, go for it...




46 comments:

  1. That's why I began writing - write the book I want to read.
    Rules can bog you down sometimes.

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  2. I love your take on this question. And yes, many of those writing "rules" are written by unpublished writers ;)

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    1. I think we have to make our own rules and stick to them.

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  3. I am perched precariously on the fence here. I firmly believe that some rules should be adhered to - unless you have mastered the craft and know just when to break them. And do so for a reason. I don't consider following a trend to be a sufficient reason.
    That said, writing is indeed a risk. Authors open themselves up to criticism, some of it justified and some of it emphatically not. A risk that I am endlessly grateful that so many of you take.

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    1. Authors certainly get a lot of criticism, some fair, some unfair. Gotta be strong.

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  4. All show makes for a very awkward read.

    And no, that wasn't my thought when I came up with the question (yes, it was mine) but that's why I'm so curious to see what others consider risks.

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    1. It's the best question yet L Diane. Great to think about risk taking in all its forms.

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  5. Yes, there's a lot of rules we're supposed to follow. And it's hard seeing published writers break them all the time. I think it's great to address issues in stories. I like reading them to see how the characters grow as they deal with them.

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    1. Glad you like to address issues in stories too Natalie.

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  6. I think the "rules" should be seen more as guidelines. There's sense in a lot of them but that doesn't mean they need to be followed slavishly. I'm with you on those difficult issues - sometimes they arise as part of a character's journey, it's how they grow. I don't set out to do anything controversial.

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  7. Love your take on the question. I wasn't thinking of the overall risk of writing and putting our work out there. It's such a huge risk - one that took me years to take!
    I'm with you on the rules. Story trumps all!

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  8. Ah, yes those writing rules can really do your head in. I think what Jemi says above nails it - "story trumps all!"

    I write what I like to read as well. :)

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  9. Hi Denise - I certainly couldn't write to rules ... I'd fail dismally - probably why I've never tried a novel ... good luck to all who do. And I agree with Ellen, who agrees with Jemi ... the story trumps all. All the best - Hilary

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  10. I agree 100%. Your story is yours. Creativity isn't something anyone can dictate. Guidelines are nice but go with your heart!

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  11. Hi,
    What can I say but AMEN! Write the book you want to read.
    Wishing you all the best.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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    1. Good advice that one. Hope things are going well for you Pat.

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  12. I'm in the "rules are meant to be broken camp." The only rule I like is "break 'em good."

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  13. You may wish to read my blog post today to appreciate my take on rules... The word 'anarchy' may be featured!

    While rules give us boundaries when we are beginners, writers must push against boundaries of all kinds. By nature we are risk-takers and must be resistant to criticism that can blight our slices of life. Kudos for controversy, for being the storm rather than merely weathering it!

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    1. I think we've entered a generic universe where we're all expected to be same/same. We must push the boundaries for sure.

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  14. I agree with Nick: the rules are guidelines, not a law. That said, those rules exist for a reason, and it is a good idea for a writer to stick to them as much as possible, unless one of them hurts your story. Then, by all means, break away from the rules and write what you think makes your story better.

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    1. It would be so freeing to write the way we want to.

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  15. I never break the rules. I bend them until they look like a pretzel or a Celtic knot.

    What burns me are the thoughtless comments of those who set themselves up as coaches to us new writers. They say things like, "Nobody older than second grade writes with a pencil." To which I reply "Well, I sure as hell do!"

    Then they tell you to write your passion. So when I send them an example of my passion in fiction, I get the response, "Why are you writing this? You shouldn't be writing this. You should write this as nonfiction."

    I have learned to be careful listening to self-acclaimed writing coaches. Many of them are full of contradictions and are sometimes more interested in creating carbon copies of themselves than in bringing out the creative genius in others.

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    1. It is easy to lose your passion when too many eyes rove your ms and all have differing opinions on your work, some making dumb suggestions.

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  16. I'm not a risk taker in real life. But I write contemporary and historical romance with a touch of mystery, so my characters are risk takers in order to create suspense. Break the rules in writing? Not often, but in short stories, I do. I don't believe their are hard and fast writing rules, just guidelines.

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    1. Your characters sound interesting Judy. Thanks for visiting!

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  17. I've never paid much attention to all those "rules" that people like to try and foist on writers. There's a place for everything, even adverbs, the trick is to know when to use and when not to. My only real rule is "do what works".

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  18. I write the way I want to write, but I do take comments and criticisms of my beta readers seriously. And for anything I intend to publish, I make an effort to meet readers expectations. I'm reading a book set in the historical time of my new project. Seven times in five pages she described eyes as "glittering." I didn't like it the first time and by time seven, I'm kind of out of the story. And in the first fifteen pages there are three glaring historical factual errors. If someone else finds this an enjoyable read, power to them. But I won't read this author again.

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  19. Each word of this resonates with me, Denise.

    Damyanti Biswas

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  20. How I loved the whole thing about rules Denise. I think ultimately if a book talks to me and strikes a chord I don't care for rules. I like to be real too. And anyway writing is throwing yourself to judgement. So either way it is taking risk, isn't it?
    Https://soniadogra.com

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    1. Writing is nearly always risk taking. You have to be prepared for severe criticism at times.

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  21. Thank goodness that poetry seems to have less rules than novel writing. Phew!

    I particularly dislike the one about adverbs. And there's a completely contradictory one about dialogue tags too which I never managed to sort out. Ultimately each writer must write what s/he is comfortable with, listening to and following all the 'rules' would tie them up in knots!

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    1. Silly to police adverbs. They can add so much. And people mess up dialogue tags to the extent that you have to count back to see who's speaking.

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  22. Yes! About the rules! It seems like 'big' writers break them all the time. Introducing any contemporary issue into your writing will likely be controversial to some readers since we're not allowed to have different opinions about anything.

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    1. ',,,we're not allowed to have different opinions about anything.' So true, tragic but true.

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  23. A long time ago - as in back when I was a newbie to blogging and writing - I read a post by (I think) Agent Janet Reid. She was answering question regarding "the rules" of writing. In short, she said the "rules" were mostly a fiction created by Agents and Publishers to weed out the herd-minded writers that needed rules. Basically, if you just follow the "herd minded rules" they can overlook you because you have no true creativity or initiative. So, sometimes you can stand out and still follow the rules, but mostly - not.
    I'm like you Dx; I take some risks by writing the controversial stuff. Put a finger on the pulse of humanity and allow myself to explore issues dear to my heart. Like Mark Twain, I attempt to get along in in my era, but not afraid to say it like it is today.

    I think a part of the problem is the "cookie-cutter" mentality of the general public. And many authors today just rehash the drama readers seem to think they should be living in.

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    1. Your final paragraph hits the nail on the head Donna. We do have a formulaic approach to story these days, sadly.

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