Before self-publishing my first novel, I was the kind of guy who loved rules, especially those related to writing. I studied them, memorized them, and expected others to do the same. I still value rules, but my perspective has changed.
Some of you current readers/subscribers have been following me since way back in the days of Flash Flood Fiction (my old site). You’ll remember that most of my articles there were ‘how-to’ or ‘how-not-to’ oriented. In a lot of them I was pretty adamant about what writers should or shouldn’t do to make their storytelling better.
I don’t think the same way nowadays. Self-publishing a novel (with its many challenges, mistakes, and learning opportunities) made me realize that writing solid fiction isn’t as black-and-white as I thought it was.
I’ve also read a lot more varied books in recent years. As I said in a past article on the self-published market, I’m a picky reader, and since my scope of fiction was narrow, my understanding of what made fiction ‘good’ was also narrow. Expanding my reading range helped me understand (finally) that there are a lot of different ways to write brilliant fiction.
Are there tried-and-true parameters that writers should almost universally stick to? Absolutely. Any and every craft has basic rules of quality. But I believe there are far fewer of them than I used to promote.
I encourage as many writers as I can to study their craft (read up on Sol Stein, Randy Ingermanson, and other fiction gurus) and follow those essential guidelines. These people are much smarter and more experienced than me, and they sure as heck know their stuff.
But I’d also encourage us all to write how we want to write, to innovate, take risks, and explore our own unique abilities. Don’t let other people dictate how you write.
Be teachable enough to study your craft and take advice, but be bold enough to forge your own path from that starting point.
I look forward to seeing what you come up with.