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absolutes in writing
sunday, september 29, 2002

the more i write, the more i come to the conclusion that there is nothing absolute in writing. yet there seem to be a lot of writers who think otherwise. there are the writers who seem to think, "well, this worked for me so it must work for everybody and everybody has to do it this way." then there are the writers who agree that everyone has to write in whatever way works to get them writing, but that all writers should have close to the same style. i am sure that there are other writers that have other sets of absolutes as well, but these are the two types i've come into contact the most often: you must write in this way and your writing must be like this (there is a distinction - one is how you write, the other is what you write).

i'm not saying writing doesn't have rules, it does. but i've also seen almost every rule that writing has very effectively broken at some point. i'm a believer in knowing the "rules," but not necessarily in following them if your story needs them to be broken to be an effective story. a writer just should know what he or she is breaking.

my philosophy of everyone being different and that's ok applies to writing as much as to anything else people do. so what if i need music to write and find it easier to build my plots gradually over several drafts and another writer needs to "just write" starting at the beginning of his or her story through to the end. as long as we both manage to finish what we start, what difference does it make? some writers work on two or three large projects at a time, others work on their novel and a short story here and there, and still others can't work on an extraneous projects while developing their novels. some writer from beginning to end, some plot build over gradual phases, others write bits and pieces all over the place and eventually tie all those fragments together into one story. as long as they manage to get their stories out, who cares how they write them?

as for style and voice, as writers we are encouraged to develop our own. then, when we're happy with what we've come to see as our own distinctive style (and sometimes even before we're too sure of ourselves), someone else has to come along and point out what they perceive as our flaws: too flowery, to dry, too much description, not enough description, etc etc etc. mind you, criticism is necessary to growth, but criticism should take into account a writer's particular style instead of trying to revise the writer's story into the critiquer's own image.

my alden writings so far are very poetic prose - flowery according to some people's standards. some people absolutely cannot stand it - i describe too much and use too many unnecessary words and so on. others love how i write, they like the sound, the flow, of what i've written and the imagery i create with my words. personally, i don't like writing that leaves all the imagery up to me. i want to see the story as the writer saw it when he or she was writing it. but i know there are other readers who love to be left free to create their own images for what they read.

and both styles of writing are just fine. neither is any more right than the other.

so why are writers so determined to tear each other up and tell each how wrong their way or style of writing is? not only are some of these writers who seem to think everything about writing comes in absolutes neurotic, they're making a lot of new writers neurotic right with them. on one site i've met a writer who has decided that she is the absolute authority in writing and everyone needs to do it her way, a woman who needs reassurance for almost every single line she writes, and another who gets offended when you disagree with him.

people are different. we're different in how we see and do things. writers are no different than the rest of the population - we each have our own way of doing things that works for us. and that's ok. comments on our work should never be "you're wrong for doing it this way." we have to accept that everyone will write differently just as everyone will live their lives differently. writing comes from how live and our own unique creativity. those things will be reflected in what we write and how.

and that's just how it should be.

site of the moment:
ring of the moment:
in character
word of the moment: succulent

full of juice; moist and tasty; having fleshy tissues that conserve moisture; rich in interest