The Problem with Modern Writing

Good writing is really meaningful, and it’s one of the – it’s still one of the best tools we have to get and capture people’s attention.
-Robin Sloan

The modern world of writing and literature is becoming obsessed with the “proper” style of writing or plotting stories.  If you’re like me and you’ve experienced even a small taste of editing, or if you’ve just done your research, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Nowadays, people write books about how to write books.  They blog about how to write “correctly”.  We have all these new phrases and rules for creating proper sentences, fashioning a plot, choregraphing a scene, crafting our dialogue…the list goes on and on.  Sooner or later, you’ll run into an editor, a friend, a fellow writer, who will quote another modern writer and say the equivalent of “that’s not how it’s done nowadays.”

Image result for pic of an copyeditor

It’s almost like we now have textbooks for writing.  Maybe it’s just me…but doesn’t that bother you?

Everybody needs help sometimes.  I’m not against books, blogs, or advice that helps me to become a better author.  My qualm with books about writing is not that they aren’t useful, but because they turn writing into a science.  Writing has become something that is less of an art, and more an act of conformation to the appetites of the current literary culture.

And to me, it’s disgusting.

Writing is an ART.  Art, people.  Art is not about conforming to what society wants.  It’s not about following the same path as everybody else.  It’s not about being the same.

Image result for pic of an author writing

That’s why I’m beginning to get highly annoyed with this culture of writing where there are so many rules.  Agents and publishers won’t even get through the first page of your book because they are so obsessed with the “rules”, the “dos and don’ts”.  It’s like we’ve created a checklist for writing to determine whether it’s good or bad.

“Did the author show and not tell?  Check!”

“Was all of that dialogue completely relevant?  Check!”

“Was that character arc done according to the proper arc of a hero? Check!”

“Did they utterly simplify everything to it’s utmost simplest form?  Check!”

The list goes on and on.

And you know what the problem is?  We’ve begun looking at ALL writing from this perspective.  And that’s not what writing, or art, is about.

Writing should make us ask ourselves the big questions.  It’s not about creating a perfect, movie-like scene.  It’s not about relevancy or irrelevancy.  If the author is trying to say something…well, that’s what writing is for.  Writing isn’t just about the reader.  It’s not even just about the story.  It’s about what’s being SAID.

And that’s what we’re forgetting as a society.

Don’t conform.  I’m not saying don’t improve.  But don’t conform.  Don’t let anyone keep you from SAYING something with your writing.  That’s what it’s all about.


3 thoughts on “The Problem with Modern Writing”

  1. Doesn’t it make you wonder how the great writings in history were written without self-help writing books? Kind of runs in the same vein with how did we ever leave the house without a cell phone. Very good thoughts, Dominick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! And what’s funny is that so many books that are considered “classics” don’t even follow the same formulas that modern publishers try to impose on writers today. Thank you!


  2. You make a great point. While I do believe some writing rules are necessary when it comes to grammar and punctuation (though there are exceptions), this idea of “properly creating a sentence” or “crafting a story” has become so popular and so hard-wired into these so-called writing rules, like a hammer pounding a nail to death, that it’s come to feel like an intrinsic part of writing, that there’s no other way to write except in these very specific parameters, and I do believe that that is a very limiting and frankly boring way to write. I also say that from experience. I’m an avid reader and read a wide genre of books and I know that this idea of the “right” way to write isn’t a universal rule. In fact, as you’ve pointed out in the title of your blog, this idea of the right formula to writing is a modern one, created more for profit than it is for the love of the craft.

    Not that there aren’t any writing books/blogs out there that don’t offer helpful ideas or guides but I’ve always thought that one of the best rules to becoming a writer is to be a voracious reader and read a wide variety of genres and authors. When I knew that I wanted to write I always paid attention to the books I read, seeing how the writer structured a paragraph or wrote a sentence. When they used commas and punctuation marks and semi-colons (which I still find tricky). How they set up a scene or described people or places. Note, I didn’t copy their writing style, I just learned from reading books, actual books and not how-to’s, which I think is the first start to becoming a writer. Now does that make me a better writer? I don’t know. I’ve always kept my stories to myself, for the most part anyway. But I do know that I enjoyed it more than later on, when I began to come across all these writing rules and how-to’s and what should and shouldn’t be present. I like irrelevant dialogue from time to time. I like crafting scenes between characters that don’t mean anything but are fun to write.

    And as writebrainwidow said, the famous and great writers from the past didn’t have any self-help guides to writing, no classes on creative writing to attend to learn the craft of writing. Just a lot of books to read, free time, and curiosity and ideas to help them on.

    Liked by 1 person

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