Today I’m guest blogging at Melody Steiner’s site, so hop over and read what I wrote about marketing. Since I’m over there today, Melody’s here. Check out what she has to say about following the rules:
When I was a child, teachers told me to color within the lines. So dutifully, I adjusted my artistic style so that no lines were marred by my creative prowess.
When I was a child, people told me to walk on the sidewalks, because that’s where people walked. So, to stay safe, I obeyed and walked in a straight line in the designated walking place.
When I was a child, individuals warned me to obey the law, because the law exists to provide order and structure to society, and breaking the law is bad for society in general.
Here is the thing: it’s not that I do not agree with these principles. In fact, I very strongly do (at least for the law and sidewalks). But the marvelous thing about art of any form is that for once in your life, you do not have to listen to others. You do not have to do what people tell you to do.
Like everything in life, there are rules to writing. There are guidelines that could help you succeed in your endeavor. There are role models whose examples you could follow if you wanted to walk in their shoes. There are blogs aplenty that discuss the craft, the process, the keys to unlock all your hopes and dreams. And if you are smart and patient and willing to learn from these helpful hints, something wondrous could come of it all in time.
However, there is also room for a different strain of thinking. Maybe your Romantic-Horror-Western won’t see the publishing light of day for a long while, but why shouldn’t you write it? And maybe your Dawson’s Creek-Prometheus crossover fanfic is a bit too weird for mainstream tastes, but who says it isn’t brilliant?
The point is, the novels you write don’t have to fit anyone’s prescribed formula. You just have to be realistic about your expectations. Publishers may not be willing to take a risk on something they don’t think there is a market for, but that doesn’t let you as the artist off the hook. Everything you write is practice for the book that sells. And even more importantly, everything you write is in some ways a reflection of you. So there is no such thing as a worthless work-in-progress.
Sometimes, learning to write outside the lines is a therapeutic process. Sometimes, it is a quest for answers. At other times, it is a compelling story and compelling characters that drives you to put pen to paper. As you move forward in your writing journey, remember that it is a sign of maturity to experiment from time to time, to write outside the box.