Writing is like a balanced diet – everything in moderation.
Long before I was a writer, I was a reader. In embracing the art and craft of writing, we aim to improve with every book we publish. Each conference we attend, every workshop we take and with every round of edits on our manuscripts, we’re honing our technique and learning new skills. As a reader, I never noticed things like ‘point of view’ swings nor did I care about the hero or heroine’s ‘mirror moment’ or ‘character arc’. All I knew was that the story did or didn’t work for me. I didn’t understand what it was that drew me out of the story after the opening paragraph, made me reach halfway point only to be unable to finish the book, or (most importantly) what it was that kept me on the edge of my seat entertained until ‘the end’.
Then came writing, editing, research, competition entries and finally, publishing. I learned technique, the do’s and dont’s of writing a good book, publishers’ guidelines and styles…the list goes on to assist you in presenting the reader with a book you hope will be the next international bestseller. And who knows, you might just be lucky :)
So that’s book one on the shelf, all nicely packaged and ready for ripping through the roof of sales charts world-wide…until that devil named Self-Doubt comes knocking on your door. And you don’t have to be a writer for him to come knocking.
My current work in progress is a small town romance and I’m having a little trouble with my characters. I’ve plotted and planned out the chapters, defined their personalities, their arcs, their mirror moments, and generally organised them within an inch of their lives. Three chapters later, I’ve hit the wall with them dancing around each other like boxers in the ring with no fight plan. Right after that comes, “I can’t do this. What makes me think I can write a book? What if readers don’t like it?”
Why am I having trouble? Because I’m trying to stick to the ‘rules’.
When the monster Self-Doubt comes calling, I back away from my keyboard and curl up with my all time favorite author, Nora Roberts. It’s there I see all the ‘rules’ being broken that, as a reader, I didn’t recognize before. Here’s a few:
- Starting a sentence with ‘And’ – Nora did it
- Starting a sentence with ‘Because’ – Nora did it
- Starting a sentence with ‘But’ – Nora did it
- Switching in and out of POV’s – Nora did it!
The editor in me shouts “No!” while the writer in me shouts, “Yes, yes, yes!” Why? Because that’s how ‘real people’ speak and since our characters are ‘real people’, they should be allowed to speak naturally. What gives your writing a ‘voice’ is the uniqueness of your style, the way you structure your sentences, scenes and dialogue; that little bit of ‘you’ in every story. So perhaps it’s time I followed the same advice I give to others in my role as an editor – write from the heart and apply the rules later, if they apply. If we apply the same rules to our work all the time, all our books would be the same – like a recipe passed down through the family – until someone comes along and adds a twist to it.
Be that person to add the twist – in moderation of course, you don’t want to break the rules all the time! Write from the head and the heart of your characters, and you’re on the road to writing a book that will resonate with the ‘real people’ out there – your readers. And when Self-Doubt steps into the ring, tell it to rack off and remember: Nora Roberts did it.
Even though he agreed to protect her cover — even though her own dad vouched for him — Allison Fletcher refused to be seduced by Jonah Blackhawk’s smooth charm and good looks. She was too much of a cop to fall for a shady character like Jonah…even if her pulse did race at his touch.
If only she didn’t have eyes like prime whiskey and a smile that melted his insides. If only she weren’t Boyd Fletcher’s daughter. Jonah had never cared much for cops…until now. But Ally was definitely off-limits to a guy like him. If only he could stop wanting her…
The house had stood vacant for ten years, but Maggie Fitzgerald knew she could call it home. An award-winning songwriter, Maggie had sought peace and solitude from the Los Angeles celebrity hounds after her husband’s accidental death. Instinct had brought her east, to the small Maryland town of Morganville.
Instinct also told her that Cliff Delaney, owner of a local landscaping company, was just the person to revitalize her property. But once that project began, the remains of a dead man were discovered and everyone she knew, including Cliff, seemed to have a motive for the killing.
Could she trust her instincts again or would the truth be her undoing?