Sorry, Them’s the Rules

Whenever you mention writing rules, you tend to get a lot of pushback. For example:

• Rules hinder my unique voice – For me, writing is all about the best way to convey the story; the words and techniques are just tools for achieving my ultimate goal. If you feel that the words are an art form unto themselves, more power to you. Understand, however, that creating something “unique” means that there isn’t a lot of help out there for you. Right now, you’re a child making watercolors for the refrigerator. As long as you understand that it’s going to be a while before you’re creating masterworks for the museum, that’s fine with me.

• Rules stifle my creativity – In fact, rules help your creativity — your story — shine through. If you’re more concerned with your words than your story, please see the bullet point above.

• Writing is so subjective that there are no rules – Bull. Like it or not, you’re a part of a huge publishing industry, and, like all other industries, there are standards. The moment you put your work up for sale on Amazon, you’re saying, “I’m a professional who has created something worthy to be purchased.” If you haven’t followed the rules, if you aren’t aware of standards, you have created a substandard work. In my mind, you’re no different than the contractor who cuts corners and leaves their client with a leaky roof.

• Rules are oversimplified – I agree, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. It means they should be further explored. If you want to break a rule, understand it first.

I’ve said it before and will do so again — the rules are there for your benefit. Learning them will only help you. However, a methodology for implementing them would probably be of some benefit. Tune in next week for my views on the subject.


4 thoughts on “Sorry, Them’s the Rules

  1. I was just reading a blog over at and one of the main points that I think many people forget is that, yes, there are exceptions but you cannot COUNT on being the exception (this was in regards to word count rules, not writing rules, but applies for everything really).

    • Another way to put it is, “You can do anything you want as long as it works.” You just can’t be the decision maker as to whether or not it worked. That’s why good beta readers and a good editor is so important.

  2. To add to what has already been said: Readers often expect an author to ‘follow the rules,’ unless there is a very good reason not to. If the narrative throws the reader for a loop, going too far out of their comfort zone, they might just put that book down, never to pick up another book by that author again. It’s unlikely they’ll recommend that author to their reading friends.

  3. Pingback: How to Use Rules | Brian W. Foster

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