“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
― W. Somerset Maugham
The thing I love and hate about writing is there is no road map.
When I wrote my first novel, I had no idea how to write something of that length. I actually never even intended it to become anything more than a short novella. The problems that cropped up were new, so naturally, I did what anyone else would do and turned to Google and books by the experts to guide my way.
I found that even the most famous, seasoned, best-selling authors can’t agree on what is and isn’t the key to writing a good novel. There were a lot of opinions, a lot of them vehement, and all of them different. I got the feeling that it would become quite easy to just pick one and take their words at face value as law. But who do you trust when there are conflicting beliefs among the giants?
What was even more disheartening was the way these attitudes infiltrate parts of the writing community to the point where lines are made in the sand, as if between factions. Arguments are made, insults are thrown, and writers on the sidelines are left doubting their own work and abilities after witnessing this mudslinging. In the end, we have people who fully believe in the ‘rightness’ of their own path to the exclusion of any other.
The problem with this is this fosters the belief that there is only one true way to write, which is inherently flawed. No two books even within the same genre are alike, so how can we expect two different authors writing two different books to follow the same rules to get two different results?
There are those that see the merit of experimentation, which is where I see the most value. The advice from these giants of the literary world should be taken with a grain of salt, as options to try, not as biblical law. Some things they suggest will work like a charm, and you can integrate it into your process. Some things won’t. Each writer has their own strengths and needs; we’re all different as people, of course, we won’t write the same. The important thing is to take the time to practice and experiment and see what works for you personally. Try it before you buy it.
As for the naysayers of adverbs, the cultists of third-person limited, the—I don’t even know, what are people saying is the ‘right’ way to write now? it changes by the day it seems—whatever it is they say you should or shouldn’t be doing, keep in mind their intent, listen to justification, and make a conscious choice of whether you want to try to integrate it into your own process.