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Robert's Rules of Writing #52: Lose Your Form

[Rule quoted from Robert's Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know by Robert Masello (Writer's Digest Books, 2005). See my original post for the rules of this discussion.]

With rule #52, Masello suggests that writers ought to try experimenting with new forms, especially if they have an idea that seems to lend itself to a new way of being expressed. For example, if you're primarily a writer of prose fiction, but an idea comes to mind that "wants" to be a play, go ahead and write a play.

On first glance, this piece of advice seems rather obvious to me, but I guess Masello has had many students who felt otherwise. He says that a lot of writers who come across an idea that requires a new form either choose to abandon the idea or spend so much time studying the requirements of the new form that they never get around to writing the actual piece of work.

And I must admit that although this advice seems self-evident, I can understand the paralysis that hits when a new form needs to be contemplated. I've commented before on how when I started trying to write, I found that I was more comfortable with shorter works than longer ones. And I can still remember when I was trying to revise "Broken Symmetry" to Stanley Schmidt's specifications, and I expressed my fear (yes, fear) that this short story was going to break the 7,500-word mark and become a novelette.

Stan's reply: "You're going to have to write one sometime."

When it comes to form, for the most part I do write mostly short stories. But I never let that stop me from trying something else, if I'm in the mood. So I've written reviews, articles, and essays that have been published, and in my "trunk" I have the beginnings of plays and screenplays, just because it was fun to write them. I've also experimented with "translating" stories from one form to another; I turned a comic book script I had written into a novella once, just for the fun and practice of telling a story in two different ways.

And, of course, in the past few years I've been experimenting with that most important form of all -- the blog post. As have we all.

Copyright © Michael Burstein

Comments

It seems an obvious rule to me as well. Not that I've tried a play since I left high school, but I dabble in poetry sometimes to add some spark to my prose, and I work at novels and write short stories. I can't imagine limiting myself to one form.

I haven't tried a graphic novel, but who knows what will come up in the future?
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