Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Permission to Go Rogue! Plus a Book Give-Away by Trudi Trueit (June theme)

As a kid, I wasn't much of a risk-taker. I was a rule follower. I didn't color outside the lines or jump from the top of the monkey bars, because adults told me not to. I never asked why. I wanted to do these things, to test my limits, but I didn't. I figured bad things would happen if I crossed a boundary, so I didn't dare take the risk.

Cut to a few decades later when I got serious about pursuing writing for children. I bought a spiral notebook and started compiling all of the advice more experienced writers were kind enough to share with novices like myself. You might have come across some of these judicious tidbits:  

- Your writing must be grammatically perfect
- Show, don’t tell
- Always outline
- Write what you know

It wasn’t long before I had amassed pages and pages of writing rules that I diligently committed to memory. One day, as I sat down at my computer to begin my novel, all of these directives flooded my brain. Start in the middle of the action. Start with dialogue. Start with setting and description, but not the weather. Never the weather. As the minutes ticked by, I stared at the screen. What if I broke a rule? I might not get published. Bad things might happen. Breaking one rule could ruin everything I was trying to achieve. I was paralyzed with fear.

That was the day I threw out the notebook. And I never looked back. My grammar is good, but it is by no means perfect. I have been known to start sentences with conjunctions (did you catch that one a few sentences back?) and end them with prepositions. I am not afraid to tell as well as show, because if I showed everything the book would be 1,200 pages. Sometimes, I outline. Sometimes, I don't. I rarely write about what I know. I have written 74 nonfiction books on everything from eating disorders to earthquakes. Take it from the girl who never even owned a water pistol, yet chronicled the complete history of gunpowder, what you don't know you can always learn. 

My writing rebellion didn't mean I stopped learning how to write. I am always striving to improve the way I approach elements of the craft like character development, dialogue, and story structure. "Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music,” said Truman Capote. “If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself."

Writing isn’t about conformity or achieving a certain word count per day. It isn’t about rules. It’s about freedom. My spiral notebook has long since been replaced by a single 3 X 5 card that sits on my desk with a few simple reminders to help me stay on track. This is what it says: 

Remember to . . . 
   ~ Find a unique hook
   ~ Write an opening chapter they can't put down
   ~ Make your characters unforgettable
   ~ Keep the story moving
   ~ Throw in a twist or two or three
   ~ Have fun writing today!

On the back is a favorite quote:

"All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know."
                              - Ernest Hemingway
   
It doesn’t matter if you write fiction, nonfiction, or both, the way I do. ‘Choose a genre and don’t deviate’ was another rule I broke. Rearrange the rules to suit yourself. By doing so, you will set your creativity free. Test your limits and you will go beyond what you thought was possible. Give it a try. Write without an outline. Craft a lush description (and include the weather). Split an infinitive. I dare you. Jump from the top of the monkey bars. Nothing bad will happen. I promise.

You might even discover you can fly. 


☼   ☼   ☼   BOOK GIVEAWAY   ☼   ☼   ☼ 
A famous author once told me “Never, ever give your books away.” So, in honor of my outlaw ways, I am giving away a copy of my latest tween novel Stealing Popular. You can read an excerpt HERE or view the trailer at my website. Please enter using the Rafflecopter form below. U.S. residents only, please. Contest runs through June 12, 2013. Thanks for entering. Now, get out there and break a few rules - writing rules, that is!

The contest has now ended. Thanks to everyone who entered and congratulations to our winner,  Sophie P. Happy summer!

12 comments:

  1. Yay for you becoming a rulebreaker, and yay for giving away books!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Irene! Something tells me you've broken a few writing rules in your time, too. ;)

      Delete
  2. I have broken so many rules I have lost count! Huzzah Trudy!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post! I see no one has shared a rule they've broken. Perhaps this should be the first rule we break:

    Never admit you break the rules! lol

    My favorite rule to break is: Write What You Know. How boring would that be? I've had such fun learning about dogs, canine behavior, Native American folklore, birds... Never gonna stop learning!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's my favorite one, too, Pam! I'm a research geek so I love to learn about new topics. Keep on breaking those rules!

      Delete
  4. I love this story, Trudi. And I completely agree--you're never done learning how to write.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Holly. Yes, I will still be figuring out how to write well into my old age!

      Delete
  5. I took an online writing course a few years ago by writing guru Dennis Foley, and he said the only rule for writing is "Don't bore the reader." Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wise words, Claudia. Sounds like a great class!

      Delete
  6. I guess I was a different child, I broke every rule and asked "why?" as oftrn as possible. Yes, that was me. I read a lot of writing books from writers and gurus who ai respect and I respectfully disregard rules about voice. I would rather read a first person POV in a picture book than a grown up narrator so that is what I write. I hear children talking in my head so I write their stories. I would love to win a copy of your new book. Thanks for the giveaway and blog post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Alison! It sounds like you've always had writing in your blood! And I agree with you about the first person POV in picture books - so true!

      Delete