Saturday, January 7, 2012

Art Form or Science?

One thing that frustrates me a lot about writing is how vague the rules are for it and yet how judgmental some people can be. I've talked to a ton of individuals who have ranted to me about how poorly a piece of writing is (for instance: "she used too many metaphors.") And because I am a writer, this immediately prompts me to ask them a question because I want to learn how to be a better writer through the mistakes of others (example: "How many metaphors is too much?") And their answer to me the majority of the time is: "I don't know.  Writing is an art form. There is no official right or wrong amount of metaphors. You just have to feel your story out and decide for yourself what the correct amount is."

If everyone could just trust their own instincts about what was right or wrong, then someone who used "too many metaphors" wouldn't have done so because they would have known better. There's obviously some mysterious set of rules out there that we are all trying to master that makes some novels page turners and bestsellers and causes others to grow dust in the closet. Rules like "show and don't tell" and "make sure something new is happening on every page" seem like good sets of advice.

But at the same time, I recently started reading a novel called "Shatter Me" by Tahereh Mafi that's excellent, but breaks a lot of rules. There's passages of her book that are crossed out. She uses flowery descriptions and over the top metaphors. There's very little use of commas. And the story reads suspiciously like others ones of the same genre that I've read before. It sounds like a terrible novel, but the author's voice is so good, her characterization so unique, and she's taking something old and making it so unpredictable, that the story is once of the best and most innovative that I've read in a long time.

I'm given lots of advice by people who read my novels and I am told to take that advice with humility and not be so emotional towards my writing that I'm afraid to change it, but at the same time to know the difference between someone giving bad advice and someone giving good. When I disagree with someone on a critique they give me, I rarely know whether my emotions are blinding me or whether wise judgment and experience is telling me they are wrong. There are no set rules, yet if I do it wrong, it's unlikely that my novel will ever be published and I'll get bad reviews even if it is.

I mean, it's kind of awesome that people can break all kinds of rules and yet still write an amazing novel, but I also wish there were definitive rules I could follow sometimes. I have no way to know whether my writing is good or not without them and it makes this career choice more of a risk for me than it would otherwise be.

Not to mention that when I critique other people's novels, am I telling them the right things to change or will I learn later that I was misguided?

I suppose people would argue that writing is both an art form and a science, but accepting that is very hard for me.

1 comment:

Keisha Azzalea said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. no problem no life, no matter did not learn, so enjoy it :)

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