I have written almost 15,000 words so far in February! It took roughly the first week of the month to eclipse my January numbers. That felt good.
Whether or not these 15,000 words are worth their weight is another question entirely.
By way of update: my 1st draft now has four different points of view now. Sentences are at war, whole paragraphs are passive, and chapter titles have been reduced to (Day) (Place) (Character Name). It is a lawless land. I may not get out alive.
Yes, I have broken some cardinal rules in my last few weeks of writing. But who says we can’t? I certainly don’t follow MLA or the Chicago style or even Elements of Style! My stories tend to be detail-oriented, emotion-driven, and a little (okay, a lot) meandering until I take a red pen to them. I am a fairly brutal editor, almost extremely so with my own work. Until then, though, who says we need to follow rules when we write?
Some of the greatest of all time didn’t follow the rules! Some of my personal favorites wrote stories that would have English teachers balking! Didn’t stop any of them from being their best literary selves and torturing High School students for generations to come! Mary Shelley invented a new genre when she wrote Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus! Hell, Dante wrote Biblical fanfiction and is still considered among the most important artists of all time.
As I think back on the writers that have had the most influence on me, they have – most nearly all of them – been rule breakers. Vonnegut decided to tell the literary world that a perfectly mundane story could be science fiction because it happened to highlight technology, not because it included aliens or spaceships. Elizabeth Barrett Browning essentially told her father to shove it in order to run away with Robert Browning, who’s greatest work was an epic – seriously, very, very long – poem following an ancient Roman murder trial. She was disinherited for her love. Bob Dylan won the Novel Prize in Literature for rambling, simple lyrics that told the story of the heart of a generation. Stephen King became one of the most prolific writers of all time writing mass-market pulp horror.
I’m sure they all questioned themselves as they went along. Rainer Maria Rilke’s father sent him to military school when he found the young man preferred the ‘femininity’ of poetry. Many years later, this experience would give us Letters to a Young Poet as he tried to council a fellow artist through the hardship of toxic masculinity at that very same military school. How must that have felt for Rilke as a teenager? Or for E. B. Browning as a near invalid who’s father forbade her – and her siblings – to marry but chose the inordinately difficult task of falling in love anyway? Would we have had the works we do, the literary history we do, if they hadn’t been rule breakers?
I don’t say any of this to compare myself to any of these giants. I write in role playing games and pulpy, silly chick lit and angsty dramas about fashionable people with thoroughly modern ‘problems’. My stories will not be remembered, they will not torture future generations of ninth graders, I doubt they’ll ever even see the light of day in a published format. But I don’t write for those reasons. I write to play with ideas, characters, POVs, timelines, emotions… I write as therapy and as wishful thinking. I don’t have to follow any so-called rules, because I haven’t made any for myself.
If you have – if you’ve imposed some stodgy or conservative ideals upon your art, in order to feel it is “good enough” or “real” or more than it needs to be – please reconsider. Art exists for its own sake. Break the rules. Paint – literally – outside the lines, if you want. The world would be a far duller, less colorful, much quieter place if we don’t.