Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lies Your English Teacher (Might Have) Told You

Whether or not you've taken an actual creative writing class to further your novel-creating prowess, you've taken some sort of English class.  And you've listened and tried to apply what the teacher was saying to your novel.

But let's face it--some of the things teachers tend to say are just plain wrong. 

There.  I said it.  Freedom of speech, everyone.

Yes, English teachers went to school to teach English.  They know what they are talking about.  And yet...some teachers will say things about writing that aren't true.  Most of the time, they'll give you wonderful and helpful advice.  Every once and awhile, though, one of the following phrases will come up.   
  • "There is only one way to write."  False.  There are as many ways to write as there are writers.  No two people have the same writing habits, the same style, the same methods.  Two different writers can go about the act of writing in two completely opposite manners, and still come up with two amazing books. 
  • "There is a right way to write.  There is a wrong way to write."  False.  Again, no two writers are the same.  One method might work well for one writer, but it only hinders another.  For example, some writers like to plot everything out before they start writing.  Others just start with a basic idea and see what happens.  Both can result in awesome writing. 
  • "Outlines always make writing better."  False.  It depends the writer.  Each person has to find what works for them.  Some people love outlines, but some struggle more with the outline than the actual writing.
  • "Writing rules must be followed exactly to the letter."  False.  Yes, rules should be followed.  But sometimes, a writer has a good reason to break a rule.  For example, Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking Trilogy is written in Todd's (the MC) dialect.  He doesn't always speak well.  He misspells things.  But the dialect makes the book feel more raw and authentic, and gives a greater connection to the character.  Breaking rules can be a tough thing, though, because there's an extremely fine line between breaking rules in a classy way, and doing it in a way that adds nothing to the writing.
  • "Bad books are worthless."  False.  You can learn from every single book you read.  I've read books I didn't like, books I thought were poorly written or plotted.  I didn't like them, and I didn't enjoy finishing them, but I learned something.  Bad books teach you what not to do.  There are only a handful of books that I actually regret reading, but in almost all of those cases, I regretted them because they went against my beliefs in a way I felt was unnecessary. 

Now, not every teacher says this.  In fact, most teachers would never say these phrases.  Then again, some teachers might.  If they believe that, great.  But you don't need to believe it, too.  As always, never follow writing advice blindly.  (Actually, don't ever blindly follow anything you hear.  One of my worst pet peeves when it comes to people is when someone believes everything they hear without using their own judgement and thinking about it.  But that's another story.)

This concludes another episode of Mythbusters at The Epic, the Awesome, and the Random.

This blog post was brought to you by the First Amendment.   
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1 comment:

  1. Hey, Annie! I have just found your blog through The Inky Melody, and i am smitten. I'm following, because i, too, aspire to write for a living, and i, too, find some the of the stuff English teahcers say about writing absolutely infuriating. Teachers will always make you plan, not realising that planning doesn't work for some people (and, trust me, it does NOT work for me). They will also tell you to obey the rules of writing, as if that will help. What helps is to KNOW the rules, and once you know 'em, you can break 'em. Thanks for doing a post about this! Would you hop over to my blog and have a look, please? I post my stories there and i'd love you to see them. Ta, and hats off to you (:

    http://madrosesandoopsydaisies.blogspot.com/

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