Okay, so the first rule of Write Club is……
You’re waiting for the list, right? Hmm. The problem is, I don’t have one. I’ve never had one. I probably never will.
You see the things is, I’m one of these weird writers that simply hates to follow rules. I’ve never understood it. All those ‘How To Write A Novel’ guides. All those ‘Do’s’ and ‘Do Not’s’. There’s something about all those instruction manuals that just scream at me to run in the opposite direction.
When I first started writing (which wasn’t that long ago, as contrary to popular belief, not all writers pen their first novel when they’re barely out of nappies) it was a fairly insular affair. Prompted to do something during the early stages of post-natal depression, I started writing and randomly ended up writing something that resembled a novel. I had an idea I wanted to work on, something which held my interest, and I sat down each day for about an hour and just wrote. I didn’t make notes. I didn’t plot. I didn’t write endless character outlines. I just did it. And that’s pretty much how I still work today.
During that time, I also began to dip my toes into social media more than I ever had. I connected with other writers on Twitter and on blogs and of course, came across the inevitable ‘How to Write’ guides. They’re everywhere, you can’t miss them. Give me a writer, and there are ten more out there telling everyone how to do it. “You want to be a writer? Then buy my book and I’ll tell you how it must be done.” “You want to write a best selling novel? Here’s the guide that you must follow or be cast into the pit of penniless failed writers.”
Okay, I’m being ever so slightly flippant, I know. But, if truth be told, I just don’t get it. And don’t get me wrong, I’m always keen on hearing advice from my fellow writers who have made it in the trad publishing or indie publishing world. That’s important. Crucial, even, because you’re talking to people who can give you a wealth of valuable information. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the people who claim there are hard and fast rules on how to write.
And again, I’m not talking about rules on grammar, sentence structure etc. That is something you should never stop educating yourself about. But I am talking about those who will say: You must do this. You must do that. Look, I’m not saying these people don’t have good advice, in fact, I’m sure some of them have great advice. But you have to remember that what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for the other. You have to find your own way as a writer and if you catch onto a method that another writer uses and you find that works for you too, then great. But, don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t. It doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong.
I’m prompted to write this following a recent conversation with a friend of mine who expressed an interest in joining Wattpad. She wants to start posting her work online, but she’s understandably anxious. Of course, it’s bloody nerve-wracking posting your work on a public forum for the first time. Will people like it? Will people even read it? However, in my friend’s case, her fears have been doubled and why might this be?
She’s currently finishing a creative writing module at college.
Now I studied a creative writing module at university too. Well, actually it was a women in literature poetry module with creative writing elements and yeah, it was scary as hell having to write poetry and read it out loud to the class, but I was fortunate in that we had a very supportive tutor. My friend, however, doesn’t seem to have been blessed with the same. In fact, her tutor sounds exactly like the type of tutor NO creative writing student needs because she’s a ‘it’s my way or the highway’ kind of person. The result? My friend now doubts herself and her abilities. And that just makes my blood boil. Advise. Educate. Support. But don’t damn someone because they don’t want to do things your way.
Another friend of mine, a successful writer who I admire greatly, once told me that she was astounded to learn that I never really plot. But she wasn’t saying that in a negative way, she was merely surprised, because she always plots. It’s her thing. She didn’t berate me at all for not plotting, because she understood clearly that everyone follows their own rules. Again, I reiterate: what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other.
Okay so I’m not going to sit here and say that first novel I wrote would win any awards, far from it, and I’m not here to say ‘hey look at me writing a novel and NOT following the rules, you should do that too.’
I’m saying, make your own rules. Take what you think will work for you. Mix and match rules if you need to. Or don’t. It’s up to you.
It’s your Write Club.