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Kill Soulless Writing

February 22, 2011 by Fiction Editor Beth Hill
last modified February 22, 2011

Do you feel the need for encouragement for your writing career? Feel that you’re all caught up in the rules and have lost sight of the joy of creating, the joy that brought you to writing in the first place?

Take a pause today and remember that joy. Remember the fun of joining character and plot into memorable adventure. Give thought to the part of the craft that makes you happy.

Think about good writing, writing that sings. Words that soar and twirl and grab your emotions. Soulful, soul-filled writing.

Soulless, passionless writing is sad. Terribly, tragically sad. Soulless writing lacks character or interest. Who wants to write that? Who wants to read that?

No one. No one wants to read lifeless, boring stories. There’s no need to when there are thousands of stories filled with passion and life and fascinating characters accomplishing remarkable things.

My encouragement for you today is this: Don’t let rules suck the life out of your writing.

As an editor, I make suggestions regarding grammar and sentence construction and diction and plot design . . . everything under the sun. Much of it tedious and boring and just plain hard for the writer to work on.

But I seldom offer such suggestions during the creation stage of a story.

And the reason is clear: The time of writing, especially the writing of the first draft, is a time for creativity. It’s not a time to focus on rules and correctness and standards. It’s a time for experimentation and speculation. It’s a time for freedom and mistakes and . . . mistakes? Yes, writing the first draft is a time for mistakes and experimentation. The act of creativity and the rigid adherence to rules don’t make good dance partners—both will try to lead. Yes, both are necessary. But they succeed much better when each allows the other time in the spotlight.

Writers need rules and proper grammar & punctuation, but they also need the freedom to simply write. Remember . . .

~  Sometimes you need to tell the rule makers and rule upholders to take a flying leap.

You’ll get to the proper after you’ve investigated the improper.

~  Sometimes you’ve got to put words in the wrong order.

You might just come up with a lyrical phrase that’s key to your scene or chapter or novel.

~  Sometimes you gotta write with freedom, saying anything, trying everything.

There are always rewrites.

~  Sometimes you’ll need to break the rules and use repetition in sound or word or idea just to discover the unique rhythm for your lead character or the sound, the tone, the image of your story.

~  Sometimes you’ve got to do it wrong to get it right.


You know that I’ll seemingly contradict this advice in another article (or two or five), don’t you?  But there are times, especially while creating, when you’ve just got to let loose, ignore the rules and strictures, and write with abandon.

That’s when you’ll make discoveries and create passion and produce remarkable characters and plots. That’s when you’ll craft phrases with melody, artistic wording you would never have purposely designed without the freedom to just write anything.

Leave the rules for edits and rewrites. Let heart and imagination rule the act of creation.

Kill soulless writing before it takes root.



Tags: ,     Posted in: A Writer's Life, Writing Tips