This is a post I recently wrote for my group blog The Escapism Project (I think you should click that!) about how we take the words of others too seriously when it comes to the rules of writing. Enjoy!
Look, Escapists. We're all friends here...aren't we?
I bloody well hope so, because I'm going to rant a bit here and I bet it'll raise eyebrows. Oh, and sorry for swearing.
Anyway, we all know there are some rules when it comes to writing. Basic stuff like grammar, spelling and punctuation are a must. But rules are sometimes meant to be broken. Writers spell a lot of words differently. Most of them are simple things like adding a u or replacing a z with an s. Some writers write expressions and slang-ish words differently: Oh my God. Oh my god. OMG. Ohmigod. OK. O.K.. Okay. Ok.
That's cool. We can't edit the way they write oh my god, because there's so many ways it can be done. So when someone tells you that no, you can't write okay then don't listen to them! No one knows everything, and even then there are millions of ways of interpreting or writing a word. Tell them to go shove it (or maybe don't). But you get my drift.
I've heard of heaps of things you should and shouldn't do when writing a book. Don't start a novel with dialogue. Don't start sentences with "I" more than twice in a row. Don't give two characters the same first initial. Don't walk under a ladder. Don't go swimming straight after eating. Do we walk under ladders and go swimming straight after eating? Yeah. Some of us do. And that is FINE. Perfectly fine!
I'd always thought writers were non-conformists. We didn't like the way normal life ran, so we decided to take things into our own hands and plunge the school bus off of a cliff. I'd learnt the SPaG rules in school, but even now I'm learning all these new rules I supposedly have to follow and all I can think is "Seriously?"
You may have heard of inkpop, the writing community. I was on that. I am on that. But I hardly go on any more and it's not just because of the crappy new changes. People were throwing "rules" at me left and right. Someone would tell me I did this wrong, so I fix it, and then days later another person practically tells me I had it right the first time. It drove me up the wall. So I simply stopped listening. I took everything as a suggestion. The only things I now accept as set rules are the absolute basics of writing and SPaG, the rules of writing you'd get marked on in any piece of writing at all, fiction or not. And I am a lot less stressed because of it and because I don't feel so pressured to follow all these made-up rules, my writing is getting better.
People can write a number of ways. The way someone's style might change, or the way they describe things, the rules of writing can also change. They definitely have changed through time.
In the "old days" like when Pride and Prejudice was written, people used SPaG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) a hell of a lot differently than us. Open up a Jane Austen book and look at the semi-colons and commas and lines of uninterrupted dialogue and try not to have a heart attack. But Jane Austen's books are still considered classics, and are loved by many. We accept that they wrote differently then, but we can't accept the way different people write now.
Which, if you ask me, is more ridiculous than a kangaroo in skis.
If Shakespeare had written Romeo and Juliet in our current time, we'd have chased him down with pitchforks and torches for having an underdeveloped romance and unrealistic characters with no background whatsoever. Poor guy. The way we write changes over time, and I think it's awful we give ourselves so many rules to follow and telling ourselves we have to do this and that otherwise we're awful writers.
I've told people this before and now I'm going to tell you guys: write the way you want to write. Use the Oxford comma, or don't, even if other skeptics tell you NO, NO. Write slang different to the person beside you if that's how you think it's written. Start a novel off with dialogue if that's the way the book should start off.
You don't always have to listen to what other people say. Because, more often that not, if they think they are right, they are most likely wrong.
Write your way and no one else's. After all, it's your writing.