IWSG : January Question

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. My awesome co-hosts today are Eva @ Lillicasplace, Crystal Collier, Sheena-kay Graham, Chemist Ken, LG Keltner, and Heather Gardner!


January Question : What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

I have grown up reading old classics by Jule Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, R.L.Stevenson, Charles Dickens – to name a few. It tried my patience to get ‘well into’ the book as the descriptions of the surroundings went on and on in the first few pages. If it was not about the type of scenery or the grandeur of the mansion that the characters lived in, it was about the typical habits of the character in question. It was as if there was nothing happening in the book except when you were into the 2nd or the 3rd chapter. If you were real unlucky, the book would pick up pace well after the first half.

This was my feeling when I was a teen. As I got accustomed to this style of writing and grew in years, I began to appreciate knowing where my characters are. The descriptive surroundings lent credence to the traits that the character got as a result of inhabiting them at that point of time/in the past.

Recently I finished reading Jane Austen and loved her descriptions of the manors and houses that her characters lived in, and the ball rooms they visited.

I have attended several writing workshops, and read several ‘How to write a successful novel’ articles which say that the ‘First sentence matters’. It should never be about the time of the day or about the surroundings. I interpret that as : The first sentence should not be something that a regular someone would say while narrating a story (like, ‘Once upon a time…). It should be striking; something that a reporter would say to catch your attention in a fraction of a second, and stop you in your tracks when you are surfing channels on the TV.

Mumbo-jumbo, I say. I call the bluff! How many first sentences (of the books you have read) do you remember? I just remember the last sentence of Gone with the Wind – ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!’

And that exactly sums up my feeling about this writing rule. Never start your novel with a sentence describing the time of the day or the surroundings. If your writing is honest, your reader will have patience to turn the next 2-3 pages and see if your story entices him further. If not, well, too bad! I am not writing a novel to please my readers, I am writing to tell a story I want to tell. I won’t tell it by adhering to some imaginary writing rules which claim to make your book an overnight bestseller.

Other than grammar rules and maintaining a decent sense of chronology, I don’t have much respect for writing rules at all. Writing is an art, you can establish vague pointers, but you cannot have people writing out of a rule book. Tch!

I wish I had never heard the never begin your story with description rule.

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