Monday, June 23, 2008

Should you break the rules?

There are a lot of rules in writing. Grammar, word length, technique, spelling and thats just the actual writing. Once you've left the page and its time to turn it in there are a whole bunch of new rules about how and who to submit to and what happens once you've sent your work away. And one of the most frustrating things for people who follow the rules, is that those who succeed often succeed partly because they've broken the rules. Why follow the rules if these people get away with breaking them?

I like rules. Following the rules is a good place to start. It gives me a platform to build my work on or to design my submission around. They give me a sense of security and I feel confident if I follow the rules I give myself a good chance of hopping into the slushpile at the least. Breaking the rules carries an element of risk and this is okay as long as you are aware of this and you are willing to take the risk. We only hear the rule-breaking success stories. Like the bulk of an iceberg being underwater, there will be a much greater proportion of rule-breakers who never break the surface. I've followed the rules and so far I'm doing okay. I don't let the rules take over though. Its important to let who you are shine through. The most important rule is write well, because that is what a publisher is after. The rest of the rules are just the good manners that will get you into the publishers office so you can show off your writing skills.

I like naming my characters. Most of the time the name comes first and fits perfectly. I have a little collection of names in my head that I am busting to use but the stories haven't formed around them yet. But interestingly i don't like a couple of the names in my latest work-in-progress including the main protagonists. While walking the dog last sunday I was trying to think of alternatives and actually came up with a couple of names I preferred. When I thought them through I realised they still didn't fit. They were posh kids names and my characters aren't posh and i didn't want anybody to think they were. So for the moment it seems I'm stuck with the names. It just seems wrong to write a character whose name i am unhappy with and i'm worried he'll be less appealing because of that. This is the first time this has happened to me and i'm keeping fingers and toes crossed it does not become a trend.

After walking the dog i went out to dinner with my husband and my brother and sisters and their husbands and wife. Last time we did it was two years ago and we had such a lovely time (both times) we are all vowing not to leave it so long until the next get together. Its great that we all get along so well, siblings and partners included. It wasn't all 'sweetness and light' growing up together but i guess that just shows that those early disagreements had nothing to do with real serious issues but were just a part of normal development. You hear some terrible stories about siblings that don't get on. I'm lucky.

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