Monday, February 2, 2009


Rules are meant to be followed – right?

WRONG! (Or at least "not always".) Now, I'm not saying to write a 300,000 word manuscript and then send it willy-nilly all around to every agent, editor and publisher in the world. And if you want to read one agent's spin on following the rules, click here.

We’ve all heard, “Write what you know” and “Become an Expert in Your Field.”

Maybe I’m just a wannabe rebel—or imagining myself following in the footsteps of James Dean, Brando and Elvis. But one thing all these men had in common was stepping outside the box, breaking the mold and making their own way (okay three things they had in common, but it really all boils down to one thing). We all have to make our own way, direct our own path, and travel our own road to publication.

These icons (Elvis, Brando and Dean) weren’t satisfied when others set limits for them. And, they weren’t willing to accept random restrictions.

And, I see some things, like dieting: putting up boundaries isn’t always the best approach; especially when it comes to the printed page. Sometimes it’s better to eat that chocolate-dipped cherry, or indulge in that jelly-filled donut. Because it's difficult to live in denial. Resentment grows--like a wicked weed, and people begin to feel deprived—or atleast I feel deprived, and then I end up binging.

Oh, wait I was talking about writing, not food..., or was I?

I say: write about whatever it is that interests you – if it whets your creative whistle, we'll want to read it.

When we follow all the rules, writing becomes a four-letter word: W.O.R.K. And writers should think writing is fun.

If writing isn’t fun, for me, I won’t want to do it, late at night, when most sane people are fast asleep, while visions of sugarplums (there’s the food again) dance in their heads.

Life should be full of flavor and writers should follow their own rules to make writing [a]muse[ing].


Christina Farley said...

Love this. You are right. Writing what we know is great but writing what we love is even better.

Kelly Polark said...

I echo Christina's sentiments! And why am I hungry after reading this post??

Rena Jones said...

Great post. I keep reading things like "write what you know" and "there aren't any stories that haven't been told already". I'm hoping that's not true. Like you said, it's good to step out of the box. I think writing about things you don't know will only make you a better writer because it forces you to do research and learn.

Loved your post, Kim! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Writing is HARD work. Amen, Sister.

Adrienne said...

Very true words. I think if your work lacks enthusiasm, it definitely shows.

Jo said...

It is a conundrum! I agree that the spirit, the muse, the inspiration is all important to writing. To any art form, really. But I do understand that there should probably be rules to its expression, some way to cultivate itself. To cultivate oneself. But I am with you, really I hate rules and love jelly donuts and believe true genius lies outside the box, not in trying to conform yourself to the shape of a box when you are really quite curvy! Why am I hungry?

Clementine said...

I agree. I'm going to be posting about lots of things that I learned at the SCBWI conference, but one of the biggest golden nuggets that I took away with me, came from Jarrett Krosoczka. He said that you can't ever rush creativity because you want to be at a certain place in your career, and he said that everyone takes a different road to publication. Whoops, that's actually two things!

Marcia said...

This reminds me of something an editor once said: "I want a book that's the same, but different." The "rules" are our underpinnings, but to write a great book we have to transcend them. I don't see "Write what you know" as a limitation -- it doesn't mean "This is all you can write about." It means, "Here is your natural material; why not use it?" And "what you know" includes anything you can learn about, so really, the sky's the limit. Thoughtful post!

Kimbra Kasch said...

It's funny - I think "Break the Rules" then I hope over to another blog and it says "Stick to the Rules" - I guess we all have to choose for ourselves.

But the main thing to remember is: let's keep the pen to the paper...that's the only way to win in this wonderful world of writing.

sruble said...

Great post Kim! Thanks for the link to Rachelle's post too. Interesting comments over there, that work well with your post too.

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