This Writer's Opinion
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This Writer's Opinion
Writers Speak Out

Writing Resolutions to Make (And Break)
by Miranda Fuller

The New Year is symbolized by Janus, an ancient two-faced deity who was able to look both forward and back. Borrowing his dual perspective, I propose that, when it comes to writing, there is more than one way to look at the rules.

You know the rules. You've read them in books, heard them at conferences, seen articles about them in magazines. Write what you know; write every day; write in the morning when you're fresh and cheery. Keep your eyes on your own paper. Oh, and keep a journal (for your autobiography in case you hit the big time). 

These guidelines have some value or they wouldn't be trotted out with such dismal regularity. The trick is to understand a rule's intent so it doesn't become an end in itself. Below, you will find a collection of rules just begging to be broken and a rationale that will let you wield a sledgehammer with a clear conscience.

1. "Write every day."  This one looks fine on the surface but it can rub you raw in the middle of a serious dry spell. Instead, "Make progress every day." Do some research for your story. Read a book or watch a video on the subject. Surf the net. Write about why you're stuck. Write to your characters or crank out an imaginary letter to a friend describing your project with the hope and vision that made you start it in the first place.  Rather than push a boulder uphill, look for a bit of relief, a new angle, or a fresh draft of enthusiasm.

2. "Write what you know." I'd hate to be so limited when there's a great big world out there. If you're willing to do the legwork and the learning, why shouldn't you pick something that fascinates you? Why not "Write what you love"? If your story doesn't excite you, how will it get a reader's blood going? It's much easier to learn the details of the Irish Easter Uprising or monastery customs or what goes on in a mental hospital than to pump life into a ho-hum tale of any kind. 

3. "Finish the first draft, then revise." If this works for you, great. If not, quit torturing yourself and join the surprisingly large percentage of us who use what Writer's Digest author Kit Reed calls block construction. In this method, the writer labors over a section ranging from a sentence to a chapter or more, and hones it to an acceptable level before moving on. Each method has its pros and cons so "Use the revision method that works best for you." Or get crazy and alternate.

4. "Write in the morning when you're fresh." I've been know to throw shoes at people who disturb me early. My normal writing day starts after four in the afternoon. Sometimes I work till six in the morning. I used to feel guilty. I don't anymore. Listen to your internal clock, your family, and your job. "Find the time that works best for you and go for it."

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