How do you feel about rules on writing? I know. I used to feel the same way. Surely to create art requires freedom – not the straightjacket of rules? The greats have put no store by rules, and in breaking the rules, they were able to create works of art that have survived them and are here today for us to delight in. This I believe still. However…
Because there are no rules to great writing, but as we start on this journey to becoming better versions of ourselves, knowing the rules will help us avoid falling into some fairly obvious “bad writing” traps.
Knowing what not to do sometimes is more useful than knowing the opposite. And whereas talent can’t be learnt, craft can.
Here is the first thing I learnt.
Picture an agent or a publisher that you hope will take an interest in your work. Imagine them receiving your lovingly crafted manuscript. It’s been a while since you’ve sent it, but today it finally made its way to the top of the list and onto their desk. They are about to pick it up.
Do you have that image settled in mind? I will wait. Don’t worry. Ready?
Now… All of us would like to imagine that they can’t wait to delve in and will be reading with the sole purpose of enjoying your prose. Lovely.
Back to reality.
Agents and editors receive hundreds of manuscripts daily, so in order to do their job and do it well, they read in order to get through the pile; their eye is on the lookout for anything that would allow them to dismiss the work in front of them and move on to the next. This is not because they do not want to love what they read – after all these are both knowledgeable and avid readers we are talking about and everyone wants to love what they read – but their time is precious and their workload grows greater by the day, so they can’t afford to give a lot of their time to a manuscript that does not grab and hold their attention. What they want is for the writer to give them no excuse to dismiss the manuscript.
What I aim to do over the next few weeks is to share with you some of the things I have learnt so far on my journey – the rule breaking that leads to manuscripts being rejected – in the hope that they will be of some use, either as a framework for the beginner or as reminders for the accomplished writer.
Until then… write – play – write. 🙂