So there this guy, Russell Blake, who’s written a bunch of bestselling novels. I’m not familiar with his work as I don’t read thrillers. In his most recent blog post, he talks about why authors annoy him. Honestly, I can’t argue with him.
He talks about how a writer friend–whom I assume will not be an author friend after he reads Blake’s post–disparaged some of Russels works because his characters did not have an arc. He then snarkly, and appropriately, points out that the (probably former) friend in question does not sell as many books as Mr. Russell Blake–who I know only through this blog post, but his seems like an interesting guy. I would definitely have drinks with Blake, especially if he’s paying. Okay, so maybe I just like drinks.
In his post, Russell talks about how his friend will riff about the “rules” of writing. About character arcs and adverb use, about archetypes and climaxes. However, Russel prefers to write a good story, something new and exciting, a ripping yarn.
I have a bit of a different theory. Those rules are great for people who are starting out. However, once you develop your style and you know what kind of story you want to tell, they become less important. A good writer doesn’t depend on rules. A good writer knows himself, learns from the rules that others follow, finds out how they can help his work, and moves on.
Or perhaps I should say, fortune does not favor he who has the thickest and best-organized rulebook.
Then again, I sell less books than anybody, so what do I know?