How many successful writers do you know who do it all wrong?
Joanne Harris and Roxane Gay are not only outspoken on social media, they engage with nearly every troll.
Joe Lansdale writes different genres, wildly dark or funny stories, all under the same name.
Who writes in the second person? Begins with the weather? Writes what people skip? Kills the dog?
Try any of those things and the answer will be, "well, you're not Roxane Lansdale Harris." (Good name for a character, that). And they're right. You're not them. You're you.
This isn't to say "rules are meant to be broken," but there is no magic formula.
If you listen too carefully, you'll never be you. That is not to say ignore editors and beta readers. They are there to fine-tune your work and give you perspective. Sometimes you miss the mark, and need to finesse it. Sometimes, it's a delicate dance.
Be aware that being you sometimes means being less popular than vanilla. Maybe you're pistachio. Sometimes I'm the guy who orders the old-ass flavors like butter pecan, maple walnut, and salted turnip, because I feel they don't get enough love. (Right now, there's a pint of rocky road in my freezer that I wish was closer, if you're wondering where this tangent came from.)
The rules you should try not to break are write fearlessly about what you love, persevere, and behave politely and professionally. And even that first one can be broken, if you want or need to write for hire. We all need to make a living. And many of these rules get penned by people living off family or spouses or day jobs where you have the luxury of principles. Behaving professionally in business matters will open doors for you. And behaving unprofessionally or with difficulty will close them. Don't eat shit, but don't shit where you eat, either.
And never kill the dog.
Great post, Tom!
I'm not by nature a rule breaker, so I would add that following rules is me being me. Which isn't to say I shouldn't break out now and then, just that I generally like to work within certain parameters. But my world view comes out in everything I write, which makes my work unique to me even when if I'm not daring to break wildly out of my comfort zone.
What I do know is that I'd like to be more fearless in my writing. I'm working on that.
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