The Golden Rule

is there are no rules.

No rules about writing, that is.  They’ll tell you not to rewrite at all until the whole draft’s done.  Never look back.  They’ll tell you to re-read your last scene to feel your mood, and then push forward.  Put the first draft aside for several weeks once you’re done, so you can recoup your vision before getting into the first round of edits.

Just like they say a glass of wine a day is good for you, then it’s more, then it’s less.  Then it’s particular kinds of grapes.  Milk is good, milk is bad after a certain point in life.  It’s natural, it’s unnatural–what other animals suckle different species.  Etcetera, etcetera.

So my new rule about writing is this:  Go with my gut.  (Yeah, notice the rule is for me.  I won’t mess with your rules for you.)  😉

This morning I sat before my view of a hundred New York City windows, mostly darkened in predawn slumber, and I got back into the writing groove.  I went back forty pages and read my story to the end.  Along the way, I noticed gaps and filled them.  I itched to rewrite S, my still-forming antagonist, whose machinations are coming into focus for my lead characters.  I held off, but wrote a note to myself.  I can’t wait to have a field day with him.

New scenes usually come easier–once they’re imagined, the words come and come until the scene’s rounded off and demands the next one.  This stuff, the details, the gaps–they don’t usually inspire many pages.  They’re usually there because at some point they stumped me.  But this morning, abandoning the rules in a simmering cup of coffee, I leapt into just savoring the story and rewriting at will those sections which called to me in their silence.  And the words, images and new questions and answers began to come, unabatingly.  (Which I am informed is not a word.  Tough.)  🙂

And this read through and slight reworking of the last section of the book was great.  It reminded me that I love my story, and that I can’t wait to find out what happens.  If I can just translate it well in the final write-up, I hope other people might feel the same way.  🙂


About sputnitsa

Born in the US, I grew up in Africa and the West Indies, and returned stateside in my teens. After a decade in international development, democracy work, and inclusivity training for domestic NGOs, I joined Peace Corps, and after a year, experienced my first Russian invasion. I followed that up by volunteering with refugees and youth, and after some vacation time climbing minarets and mountains, I returned to New York City, where today I work on social justice with college students, produce short films, and write.
This entry was posted in fiction, finding your own way, first drafts, rewrites, writing, writing tips and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Golden Rule

  1. ralfast says:

    I would disagree with you. Writing has many rules, but no laws, except one, write.

  2. matthewgraybosch says:

    I agree with you, Sputnisa, though I tend to be a little more dramatic about it. My approach to writing is to do what works. If a method works on one day, but not the next, chuck it and find something better.

    Nothing is true, everything is permissible, and do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law!

    • sputnitsa says:

      It’s a learning experience, always, writing, I feel. 🙂

      I guess it’s about the end product. Does it work. Does it keep one (the writer) motivated, does it serve the story, and if it doesn’t yet, does one feel it will with more work. So I guess it’s about the joy of writing and experimenting, also. 🙂

  3. Yarnspnr says:

    Have you ever written a poem, worked it over until each word held the exact weight you wanted? You worked it over one more time before you submitted it. After it was published, you find it here and there and you read it again. Again you realize that word wasn’t the one that worked best there. But it’s been published and you can’t change it anymore. It leaves you feeling antsy. You’d like to stop people on the street and show them the poem and ask them about the new word.

    That’s the only rule I know concerning writing. It’s never finished.

    • sputnitsa says:

      Oh no!

      This does not bode well for finishing this book! Or rather, for feeling a sense of completion upon finishing this book. 🙂

      • matthewgraybosch says:

        Yeah, but that’s what second editions are for. Finish it, sell it, make it big, and when it’s time for a tenth anniversary edition persuade your editor to let you take another whack at it.

  4. Pingback: Many Rules, One Law « Neither Here nor There….

  5. Sput,

    I totally agree, as you already know. 🙂

    There is no one correct method to write a novel. Everyone has to find their own way. I just laugh at those who say you *must* outline. Or you must not outline. And anyone who thinks their method is the only one of value.

  6. Pingback: Many Rules, One Law »

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