Write What You Want

“I’ll write what I want to write, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it.”

There comes a time in every writer’s life when you have to think this way.  It’s not cocky or meant to put anyone off.  It grants us writers permission to tell the rules to screw themselves so that creativity can flow. 

One thing I’ve noticed with more writers these days is they’re beginning to loosen up when it comes to the genre in which they write.  I’m not saying that’s true of all authors.  Some folks prefer not to stray from tradition and that’s okay.  However, I’ve always been one to find a loop hole in the rules because I don’t believe in absolutes when it comes to following my dreams.  Rules are a way to hinder them, and that won’t work for me.  So unless it’s physically impossible, never tell me that I can’t when it comes to writing. 

This is a state of mind that comes in handy whenever I’m trying to work through a sagging middle or writer’s block.  I don’t think about whether or not my book will sell, what my agent will think, or how my tiny audience will respond.  I don’t care if it’s a NYT bestseller or if it garners the award for the Worst of the Worst.  I write what I need to write to get the story out of my head and worry about the consequences later…maybe.  If my agent says “no” and/or my editor concurs, then there’s always a free online serial.  I’m okay with that.  🙂   

Do you write what you want or do you worry about breaking the rules…and possibly ruining expectations?  Why?

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My Writing Teachers

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not a very big fan of craft books.  I have a handful that I pay attention to and rarely buy any that are suggested to me.  Why?  To put it simply, they’re boring.  I don’t want to read about how to write.  I’d rather just do it.  It’s like many things I’ve experienced in life.  I didn’t want to watch someone skydive.  I did it.  I experienced it.  I loved it.  Although, I doubt I’ll be doing it again.  Why chance fate a second time, right?  😉

It amazes me the number of aspiring writers who still ask about the difference between Show vs. Tell and what is it.  Every now and then, someone will bring it up on one of my online writer’s loops and we spend about ten emails of everyone pretty much saying the same thing.  Does the aspiring author get it?  I have no idea.  But if I had a choice, I’d change the whole Show vs. Tell thing to Experience.

I learn best by experience.  Everything I’ve learned about writing, I’ve learned from reading.  Online courses are great if you need the refresher.  However, I find my best refresher comes from reading books I love.  Here’s a short list of authors who’ve taught me some fabulous rules:

1. Nancy Haddock – characterization (her latest release Last Vampire Standing reminded me how important it is.  Get this book!)

2. Kelley Armstrong – amazing world building while keeping it real

3. Laurell K. Hamilton – pacing (note: this is prior to her venture into the 300 pages of sex and 20 pages of plot)

4. Bentley Little – plotting and the simplest things can turn your character’s world into a living hell.

5. John Saul – go for it no matter how strange it might feel

6. JK Rowling – let your imagination soar

7. Erica Orloff – again, characters who leap off the pages and keeping it real.

8. Kiana Alexander – she very new to the biz, but she can write the hell out of a synopsis.  I feel honored that she let me critique hers.  🙂

Now keep in mind that these authors have taught–continue to teach–me more than what I’ve listed here.  However, these are the things that really stand out. 

What about you?  Who were the authors you’ve learned from and what have they taught you?

Becoming Certifiable

Just when I thought I’d never take another writing class, what do I do?  I sign up for two.  One in February and another in March. 

I don’t like taking online classes anymore because I don’t get a lot out of them like I used to.  And I could be wrong, but I think the calibre has gone down, too.  Then again, it could be where I’m looking (or not looking).  I don’t know. 

Anyway, I’ve signed up for Screenwriting Tricks for Authors (and Screenwriters) taught by Alex Sokoloff.  I’ve always had a genuine interest in how screenwriting techniques transfer over to writing, so that’s why I decided to give this class a chance.  Not only that, but Alex is amazingly giving when it comes to helping writers to hone their craft.  The other class is the famous Empowering Characters’ Emotions by Margie Lawson.  Yes, this is somewhat of a repeat for me, since I took it and raved about it at M&M this past October.  But seeing as this is a month long, it’s possible that Margie might go more in-depth with this stuff, seeing as it’s a month long.  Not only that, but I’m going in with the idea that this is my refresher course for the year.

Which brings me to the topic of this blog.  Do you believe in having writer certification courses? 

Back in the day, I worked in a pathology lab where I needed my lab technician certification if I wanted to work there.  When I had worked for Oracle Corp., I had to become certified in Oracle, if I was going to train others on how to use their software, databases, etc.  Both professions required some level of proof for me to say I knew what I was talking about.  Since authors are treating their writing careers like professions, why shouldn’t we do the same?  CPAs are required to be certified.  There’s the bar exam for lawyers and a certification for phlebotomy.

Of course, there isn’t any national organization to enforce such a thing, which is fine.  But if they really wanted to help their members, then it wouldn’t hurt to have them to give a stipend for taking at least one writing class per year to maintain their membership.

So to answer my own question, I’m a huge believer in taking refresher courses.  Certification courses are another story because I don’t know what the impact would be, if any.  Would an agent or editor really care?  Again, I don’t know.  With my Oracle and lab technician certs, I saw many times where having them made the difference in landing a new job.  But until refresher courses are enforced, we have to do it on our own.  I’m cool with that.  In fact, I’m taking it upon myself to take at least two courses a year to keep my writing fresh and sharp.

Are you for or against writers becoming certified?