This post is kind of a follow up on the post from two weeks ago, No One Can Tell You How YOU Write. Also, there’s going to be two parts to it because putting all my thoughts into one post would make it very long.
When I first started writing creatively I wanted to know what the rules were. I, like many others, was looking for the magic formula titled “How To Write A Great Book”. And yes, there might be some books/articles out there titled thusly, but let’s be honest here people, there is no magic formula. There are very few hard and fast rules for writing.
Except, of course, *grammar. In school we are taught that there are rules to writing. We learned how to spell words, how to put those words together properly to make sentences, how sentences go together to form a paragraph and finally how all those paragraphs should go together to write an essay or a story.
These rules very rarely change, they are the foundation of all good writing, but they’re more like guidelines than anything. Because, if done right, even the basic grammar rules can be broken and no one cares (unless you’re a Grammar Nazi, then right now you are Red Penning this paragraph to hell and back 😉 ). Although, if you are going to break the grammar rules, you better know what you are doing and you better be clever, or people are just going to think you’re stupid.
You need to have an understanding on how language works. Why we have all these grammar rules in the first place and why you should follow them 99% of the time. Now, don’t panic, I’m not saying you have to be a grammar wiz or anything, but if you want to write well, you’ve got to have a good foundation. And don’t worry if you didn’t learn anything in school, there are a lot of resources out there to help you learn.
I highly recommend The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Every writer, no matter what you write, should own this book and study it periodically. You can also learn a lot from reading widely. Read lots of stuff, inside and outside of your preferred genre. When you come across a poorly written sentence, do a little research and find out why it’s wrong. Learn from other people’s mistakes.
Now, if you want to break these fundamental rules, do so with caution. All the crazy grammar rules are there to help you make yourself clear when you write. Sometimes you’ll write something and it will make sense to you because you know what you meant to say, but all you’ve really done is confuse your reader. There’s a million examples I could give, but just for fun:
Seriously, you want a good laugh, look up bad grammar stuff, it’s pretty amazing.
So what did we learn today, dear reader? Grammar is important and some rules can be broken, but use caution.
Next week we’ll talk about rules that are specific to genre, tropes and cliches.
Thanks for reading and have a Wonderful Wednesday!
*NOTE: I am aware that there are lots of grammar mistakes in this post, some are ironic, some are there because I’m dumb. 🙂