Don't Get Stuck in the Rules
|by AMagill (Flickr)|
What rules am I talking about? Well, if you know me, I do believe grammar is important, and you should try to avoid typos if at all possible. But I'm talking about questions and worry over things like:
1. Should I put all the thoughts in italics?
2. What font should I use--Times New Roman or Courier?
3. Should I use chapter numbers or titles?
4. Do I type "THE END" at the bottom of my page?
and so on--you get the idea. Writers have enough to worry about, including but not limited to:
- how to begin
- how to end
- realistic dialogue
- a muddy middle
- sensory detail
So whether or not to use italics should not be at the top of the worry list. I think in our race to get published and perhaps noticed, we tend to forget as much about perfecting the items on the second list as we should. It's easy to do because writing and getting published are one of the most difficult things you may ever undertake. So focusing on the mechanics and "rules" can sometimes make this overwhelming process seem like you have some control--I can put these words in italics and type the end! No problem. I got this.
But we all know that the story is what is important. Really. Writing the best beginning you can. Creating a character that all readers want to be or at least get behind. And leaving readers with an ending they will never forget.
So if you find yourself in great anxiety over a question, such as: is my heading correct on each page? instead of: Is my character arc strong enough? Take a deep breath. Relax. Envision yourself in your story and take off with it.
The biggest thing I tell all my students is just be consistent. Try to get all the rules correct and do things according to industry standards if at all possible. But above all, be consistent and write the best story you can.
What do you stress about when writing a story?