Guest Post: Writing Rebellious by J.L. Murray
Every writer knows that there is a set of rules we are supposed to adhere to if our books are going to be successful. Write what you know. Show don’t tell. Use adverbs sparingly. And underneath the basics you have all the literary greats giving you advice on what you should be doing in order to write good fiction. Chief among these is something that is almost exclusively more of an order from a drill sergeant than a piece of advice meant to be taken with a grain of salt.
Plan, plan, plan. Outline, outline, outline. Know everything that’s going to happen down to the smallest detail. If you do not do this, you will not only fail, but you will fail spectacularly.
I call B.S.
I have written seven books and am in the middle of my eighth. And though, for the most part, I’ve attempted to plan every single one of them, something always happens somewhere near the end of the first act. Maybe something seems off about the events transpiring. Perhaps there is just something that gnaws at me about one of the characters. Or maybe, Heaven forfend, could it be that the plot I’ve meticulously planned is (gasp) boring?
No matter the reason, my outline always, without fail, goes out the window. And every single time, it is absolutely for the best.
The instant your book goes off the rails, you can give yourself permission to get creative. You can get weird and your stories can get twisty and crazy and intense. You can let it tie you up in knots and keep you up at night. You can let the story take hold and surprise you and make you remember why you became a writer in the first place. Can, can, can.
Can is a strong word. You can do anything. If there isn’t a set of rules, then there are no set boundaries. And if you’re not following the rules, then it shows. Readers will come to your books with trepidation and excitement. When a book is written in territory in which the writer, themselves are surprised, the reader will never know what to expect. And this is a very good thing.
Ditch the rules. Surprise yourself, let your characters go wild and see what happens. Your readers will definitely thank you for it. But most of all, each book you write will be something new and fresh and fascinating. When you forget what you are supposed to do, and just focus on what you can do, worlds of possibilities open up. And following the story is far more interesting than being a slave to an outline.
Don’t misunderstand me. I still use outlines. They are an excellent tool for getting a story off the ground. But once you’re flying, oftentimes a meticulously-planned outline will hold you back and keep you from writing something that will stand out in the ocean of stories desperate to fit into genre molds. Don’t let the rules keep you from breaking the mold.
When it comes right down to it, writers are rule-breakers at heart. Follow your rebellious nature. Focus on what you can do.
J.L. Murray’s fifth and final book in her Niki Slobodian series is OUT NOW!
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It’s nice to know that I’m not alone. I’ve worried in the past that I am deviating too far from my initial plan. But, I do tend to carry on regardless. I always feel that the end product is a more accomplished piece that the original idea, so there must be some truth in what you say.
Thank you for saying out loud what I, too, think. One of the things I love the most about Indie publishing is the freedom it gives us in finding our voice!