Writing Tips/Insights #7: Don’t Succumb to Tradition


Writing. It’s like any  other specialty or craft out there – there’ll always be those people who insist that there is a right and wrong way to do it. And in some cases, I believe that to be true. There are some things to avoid (mainly because the publishing world isn’t keen on them) and there are definitely some things that could be classed as wrong – like poor spelling, punctuation and grammar and let’s not mention plot-holes and timeline inconsistencies etc.

But when I’m talking about this subject, I’m focussing mainly on the elements, and theart, of storytelling – and all other sorts of writing for that matter. But mainly novel-writing in this particular post.

I believe that because writing is a creative thing there is no clear-cut way to go about doing it. There should be no such thing as the right structure or right way to display a character, or no direct formula to solve the whole showing vs telling problem. For it to be considered good – to me – it should be a unique plot, with some interesting characters and well written. Those are the only needs for me. The rest can be whatever, as long as it works well.

Too many people these days are focussed on worrying whether or not they’re writing properly or if there work would ever sell, as opposed to just worrying about sitting down and writing. That’s all it is when it comes down to it: sitting down and spilling the contents of your heart out onto the pages. Bleeding within the words. That is true writing. It’s saying what you want to say, but can’t. Being who you want to be, but wouldn’t ever dare. It isn’t a case of reading a book and then being able to write perfectly and sadly, today, there are too many people who are way too narrow-minded on the subject. And let me tell you: writing and narrow-mindedness don’t exactly go hand in hand…

You can’t just read a book titled ‘How to Write a Novel’ and then all of a sudden transform into Hemingway… It’s much more than that and so much more goes into it than that. For me, it’s simply about sitting down and writing, day after day, week after week, month after month; year after fucking year. Only then will you truly begin to master your craft and develop your own individual voice and uniqueness. Not by reading a book. But by doing – over and over and over again. It’s like saying reading a book about PEDS (performance enhancing drugs) would turn you into Ronnie Coleman.


(That’s Ronnie Coleman for those of you who aren’t familiar with bodybuilding.)

A thought that I’ve literally just had whilst writing this piece, is that: where did this so-called ‘right way’ stem from?

If you think about it, it stemmed from a generation of people who all picked up on the brilliance of one individual writer and decided that his way was the right way. This person wrote a book, people liked it and it sold well and then people dubbed it ‘the right way’ and from then it has been so ever since. Well what if someone back then wrote something which was the polar opposite? Something which contained vast amounts of  head-hopping, more telling than showing and a hugely over-complicated plot. What if this was picked up and sold well and was then dubbed as the ‘right way’? What then? Would what is considered the ‘right way’ now be classed as completely wrong and vice versa? Think about it. It makes sense in a somewhat nonsensical way.

But my main message remains the same: never let the fear of being different stop you from doing things your own way. Because writing a book the ‘right way’ may be picked up and sell well. But writing a book YOUR way, will leave your name etched in history.

So bear that in mind the next time you become fearful of being different. Because being scared to be different certainly WON’T bring you any:

Happy writing!

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