Lately, I’ve been reading more than writing. I generally read fiction and non-fiction simultaneously. This time, I was about halfway through a novel when I picked up a memoir in the morning and finished it by the end of the day. Then, instead of going back to the half-read novel, which was a bit depressing, I started reading a different one.
Both these novels are debuts, one published in 1989 and the other in 2009. Rule breaking is one thing they have in common. You know, those carved in stone Writing Rules, the ones debut authors must follow to have even a hope of being published.
One of these books starts with seven pages of description and history of the town and its residents before the first line of dialogue is recorded. I would say most of the book is telling, not showing. As for the protagonist, well my sympathy and patience wore thin midway through. The other novel starts in media res, as The Rules state we should, but half the story is told in flashbacks, which is supposed to be a big no-no. Also, so far, the author has used one dream sequence—another instance of so-called bad writing.
Of course, twenty years ago as now, if your story is fantastic, those Rules don’t necessarily apply. These authors apparently felt confident they had stories so strong they were free to tell them their own way. And they were justified. The older book was awarded a Pulitzer; the newer one was a bestseller.
Is this post just another rant about The Rules? No. Am I writing this post to justify my own rule breaking? No again. I’m thinking about confidence. Specifically, confidence in your writing. Does this confidence come naturally to some writers or are they just better at hiding their doubts?
I just beta-read a friend’s book, and though I, and another beta judged both the writing and story as wonderful, she still doubts. (Though I can’t believe she has that much doubt.) But I wondered, what will it take to give her solid confidence in her book? Will an agent’s offer of representation do it? Will publication be the key? Will the praise of the reading public finally convince her?
Your turn: Are you a confident writer? If not, what do you think will make you one?
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