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Create If Writing - Authentic Platform Building for Writers & Bloggers

Create If Writing is a weekly podcast for writers and bloggers dealing with authentic platform growth. Kirsten Oliphant interviews experts to find out how they are building email lists, connecting through Twitter, and using Facebook groups. These practical episodes are balanced out with inspirational interviews from successful writers and bloggers who have made it big and want to share the struggles, the creative process, and tips for reaching your goals whether you are an author publishing books or creating an online presence through blogging.
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Now displaying: May, 2018
May 28, 2018

In this post and podcast episode, we'll be diving into the idea of writing rules and when you can break them. I was honestly surprised with where I landed on this. Keep reading and see if you agree!

We've all heard that phrase: "Learn the rules; then you can break them." Or something like it. But how do you know what the rules are? And when can you actually break them?

 

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you purchase something by clicking through. 


WHY THERE AREN'T REALLY WRITING RULES

We live in a time period where things are much more open. Language is changing and has been affected by social media and texting. (Don't feel too upset by this because language is always changing. People were mad at Shakespeare in his day. It's not a new problem!) 

There are also different schools of rules. Personally, I adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style for my punctuation and grammar. While others might use the MLA or AP or something else. These don't all agree! (It's a good idea to find out which of these your particular niche uses so you can also adhere to the common guide in your niche!)

RULES & EXPECTATIONS

The rules we will be talking about today are really more of expectations that your readers have for your particular genre, niche, or medium.

When you write a query to an editor and you have two spaces after a period, they may not read your manuscript. PERIOD. They are too busy to read everything and this choice gives them an easy out to toss your manuscript.

When you buck the expectations and the rules, you are sending a message. Usually that message is- I'm ignorant OR I don't care. Neither is a good thing.

Writer in another group talked about just not understanding why people care about punctuation and spelling. "It's about story," she argued. But readers won't read your story if there are tons of errors. It tells people that you are careless and that you haven't taken the time or effort to do the bare minimum.

Same with covers. Constantly in writer's groups, people are saying things like "What do you think of my cover?" And when the responses are, "Hire a designer," they say "No." Cover matter. Period.

They sell books. They set expectations. They keep people from buying books.

LESSONS I LEARNED ABOUT RULES

I personally was surprised (as a rebel) to find freedom in following the genre rules. I started writing clean fiction under a pen name in December. I'm a writer by instinct first, so I wrote, then realized that I had messed up some big conventions and expectations. Namely that one of my short stories didn't have a Happily Ever After ending. THEY MUST in this genre.

Typically these books also switch back and forth between the perspectives of the two characters falling in love. I normally like a close third narration sticking to ONE character. This was hard for me.

Both were actually hard--I like resolution, but not necessarily happy endings. I also like my choice for sticking to one character.

FREEDOM WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK

But I found that when I started writing within what seemed like strict confines, I wrote better. I wrote faster. In fact, I've published two full novels in 2018, with the third coming out in June. In addition to two short stories in December. I wrote almost 30k words this past week. I believe MUCH of this had to do with the freedom and framework I found in sticking to the conventions.

REFRAMING THE RULES

If you are struggling with rules (like me), see if you can reframe. This is a way of sort of tricking your mind by giving something another name and a different association.

Call the rules expectations. Call them a framework or best practices. Do what it takes to help wrap your brain around finding and sticking to the rules that you need to for your niche, genre, or medium.

Just know that for most of these things, you need to fit into expectations if you want to ever SELL things and connect with an audience.

WHEN YOU CAN BREAK THE RULES AND BUCK EXPECTATIONS

It's important to note that rules can be broken. New things can emerge. Now we are talking about disruption. Disruptive innovation is when something changes in the market that makes a huge impact. Brand new markets for different kinds of customers.

Netflix is an example. They first disrupted the video stores and shut them DOWN. Then they doubled down on streaming and within a few years, TV will be totally different. (My opinion.) 

As content creators, writing an unexpected blog post or type of book is more a micro-disruption. You might choose to do something outside the rules and find great success because of the contrast. But generally speaking, if you want an audience and/or money, you should know the expectations and do your best to meet them.

The three times you can break the rules are when you are:

  1. Famous
  2. Genius
  3. Lucky

Those are typically the only ways that breaking the rules will mean success. You're famous and already have an audience of raving fans, you can do whatever you want.

You're a genius and you happen to stumble upon disruptive innovation that WORKS and changes the game.

Or...you're lucky. You happen to break a rule at the right time or get in front of the right audience or have some crazy stroke of luck. Often there is hard work behind luck. But sometimes there is just...luck. It just happened to work, even though it shouldn't have.

DO NOT BASE WHAT YOU DO ON THESE OUTLIERS.

You can't look at what someone famous does and say, "Well, breaking the rules worked for THEM." If you see someone breaking the rules successfully, chances are they are famous, a genius, or lucky. You'll do best to stick to best practices, not base your decisions on the outliers and minority finding success breaking the rules.

BREAKING THE RULES CAN BE SELFISH

When it comes down to it, if you are breaking the rules because you feel like you need to for your art, you are being selfish. You are putting yourself ahead of your readers.

You might say that you're writing for art, not for money. That's fine. But following the rules is NOT just about money.

Expectations and rules are a gift to your readers. In some ways breaking the rules isn't just about art, it's about YOU. You are thinking of YOURSELF first when you break the rules. Readers have expectations and they may be best served when you follow the expectations of your niche or genre, whether that's clean romance or the kind of blog you write or even within podcasts.

GO OUT AND CREATE CONTENT YOU LOVE THAT SERVES YOUR PEOPLE WELL. 

I'd love to hear in the comments if you agree/disagree with this idea of freedom within the rules or my strong statement that breaking the rules can be selfish! {ducks head waiting for tomatoes to be thrown}

 

LINKS I MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE-  

Emma St. Clair - my pen name for clean romance

Two free short stories by Emma St. Clair - referenced as not fully adhering to conventions

Two spaces after a period

Bad reviews given to famous works

Disruptive Innovation

The Writing Life - being open to cover changes by Robert Kugler

Tim Storm & Storm Writing School

KDP Rocket - a tool I use for keywords (I'm an affiliate and happy user!!)

Go On Write - great affordable covers (I use his branding package)

German Creative on Fiverr - affordable cover designs

Write to Market - book by Chris Fox

May 14, 2018

Writers don't write in a vacuum. Or...they SHOULDN'T. Writers need writing groups and communities of other writers to help support, teach, encourage, and promote. We need each other! Keep reading to find the why and the how.

Successful writers don't write alone. 

Okay, let me qualify that. Successful writers may write alone, but they don't WORK alone. They have writing groups and writing communities, both online and offline that help them to achieve their goals. (This is true of bloggers as well and podcasters and any -ers that you want to toss in here, I'd wager.) We need community. And the depth of community we create determines our success.

BOOM.  

WHY WRITERS NEED WRITING GROUPS AND COMMUNITIES

During the recent #cockygate, I saw a few big takeaways, no matter WHERE you fell on that whole mess. (If you don't know what that is, check out a smart and funny summary and then some legal stuff.) Here are the big things I saw from that. 

Writers in Community Get Inspired, But Don't Copy

I think the impetus (from my understanding) of the author going for a trademark was the fact that other people were copying her books in title and cover because they were successful.

Y'ALL. Do your own thing! Pay attention to what other people are doing. Watch them. Study them. (I know I do!) Then apply what you learn to your OWN WAY OF DOING THINGS. You do you. 

Writers in Community Don't Hurt the Community

Trademarking a common word sets a dangerous precedent. Sending emails about changing things like book titles and covers (which isn't always a small expense) is NOT helping the community. 

There are two opposite poles-- doing what's best for you and doing what's best for others. As a writer in healthy community, you should be in the middle. Helping the community helps YOU. But it shouldn't just be about them either. Find your happy spot. But don't hurt a community, because you NEED them. (More on that later.) 

Writers in Community Don't Become a Mob

While I think the trademark action wasn't the best for the community, neither was the community turning into a mob a good thing. I never like the mob mentality. Often it acts first and thinks later. I think the backlash to #cockygate was ugly. Surprising? No. But ugly, VERY much. 

Should writers band together? YES. Marie Force is a great example, being at the helm of the Indie Author Support Network, which is banding indie authors together. The goal is to be able to reach out to companies like iBooks and Amazon with concerns, bringing the force of over 1000 authors with them. That isn't a mob. It's a mobilized, logical force. 

When we turn on each other (even thought I totally get it sometimes), we aren't helping the community as a whole. What if that same mob turned on YOU? Think about that before you join an emotionally charged group. 

HOW TO FIND GOOD WRITING GROUPS AND COMMUNITIES

I would recommend that you find writing groups of various sizes. I have a few one-on-one people that I go to for the most personal and vulnerable of things. I'm in a few larger groups of a few hundred and then some larger of a few thousand. I'm missing the in-between of one to hundreds, which I think is super important. I'd love to have a group of about ten or less. These sizes allow for different trust factors. 

But what should you look for in writing groups? 

You should absolutely look for groups where people:

  • are honest
  • speak kindly
  • have your best interest at heart
  • know what they are talking about

I've seen writing groups that fail at one or several of these, and they are a  MESS. If you have an honest group that isn't kind and doesn't have your best interest at heart, it's horrible. If you have a group that is kind but doesn't know what they are talking about, that helps NO ONE. I think these are the four most important things. 

A FEW GOOD WRITING GROUPS

Here are a few of my favorite writing groups, with a bit about each. 

Create If Writing - Yup, this is my group. And it's epic. We talk about platform-building, our writing, blogging, social media, and have share weekends. Oh, and we celebrate small wins. Big wins too. But small wins matter. 

I Am a Writer - This group connects to Write Now, the podcast from Sarah Werner. She is kind and generous and cultivates community that is so helpful!

20Booksto50K - This is a behemoth group and may be intimidating. Especially if you are new and drop in just to ask questions that have been answered in full a LOT. Go listen. Read. Watch. 

If you want more on Facebook groups and why they are particularly important and what is changing about them, read this post on what you need to know


Do you have advice for finding great writing groups? Or have a writing group I should add to the list? Leave a comment to let me know! 

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