school bus

Using Your Voice Despite Silencing Rules

It’s back-to-school time for kids, and for adult authors it might be time to actively participate in writing seminars, groups, and other learning opportunities on the craft of writing.

Do we hop onto that school bus full speed ahead, or proceed with caution at the risk of curbed creative license?

An instructor or fellow author’s recitation of technical rules might help us more eloquently tell our tale, dogmatic subjective edicts perhaps not so much.

There are rules in life designed to keep us safe, to help guide us on a righteous path to prevent injury to others and the world around us. For example, rules regarding school buses.

Not standing on a school bus while in operation—or not fighting in one—are logical safety rules. But rules about not chewing gum because some kid put his chewed wad under the seats seems less so.

Then there’s the rules for automobiles approaching stopped school buses or operating in school speed zones, which too many adults can’t be bothered to comply with, despite dire consequences for children.

In grade school, there were rules about writing that sought to teach us how to craft a coherent sentence. This is a good thing. What is not good are subjective dictates cooked up by polite society—if there really is such a thing—that tell a writer what they can or cannot espouse on.

Guidance for the sake of not making fools of oneself with the written word is helpful, autocratic rules squelching the creative voice are not.

Presumably, there is a great deal of thought and experience behind how best to write first sentences of a novel, or first pages and chapters. Yet rules such as always start with an action-packed scene are not one-size-fits-all when it comes to fiction genres, or target readers.

I can state as an avid reader that not everyone needs intense action in the first page. Some of us can handle, and even appreciate, a little waxing poetic descriptive prose. Which is not to say that action is not needed, because an entire novel where absolutely nothing relevant happens is a tedious tale indeed.

Content restrictions are what I find most daunting indeed. Take the “write what you know” rule. You can do that ‘til the cows come home, and someone will always be ready to second-guess your knowledge. Some think they know better than you, or can’t wait to tell you your book includes subject matter the publishing industry has unilaterally and autocratically decided readers are prickly about.

First, if one chooses to write about something unknown to them, there are limitless possibilities for research to gain understanding. But if one can’t be bothered to do research, or thinks they already know everything there is to know about everything and can also write about it—or command others how to write—that person may not make the most gifted scriber, student, or advisor.

Second, if readers are prickly about, say, civil liberties, politics, religious hypocrisy, or non-traditional intimate relationships in their reading material, they are not my target audience, though they might be ideal for some authors. Yet publishers shouldn’t silence based on delicate sensibilities of a portion of the population not entitled to control how the rest of us use our voices.

Perhaps the bottom line is, I’m using my voice to write my Other Worldly novel series about how humans react to knowledge of aliens among us, not to make money for a powerhouse publisher, or to placate those who don’t do aliens and don’t tolerate any belief that doesn’t comport with theirs.

I likely won’t enjoy reading what a bully or a bigot writes, or be impressed with how they write it. Though clearly some major publishers are, if you look at who they readily hand out book deals to. I am definitely not their target audience, though I’m likely a target of the author’s misogynist hatred.

I write because I am passionate about many things, and have something to say. The written word is my craft, a fictional series and this nonfiction blog my current platform.

The only rules that apply are to respect a reader and myself enough to draft eloquent, coherent sentences. Weaving a tale designed to share thoughts with kindred spirits, and to inform as I seek to entertain.

I’m busy writing both what I know, and what I’ve made a decided attempt to learn. Including the craft of writing.

Yes, there’s always more to learn. And rules will always change if you keep at it long enough.

Don’t let the bullies or know-it-alls on the school bus silence your voice.



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