Writing Rules…I Mean Guidelines

As an aspiring writer, there are rules of fiction that I must live by. Show, don’t tell. Stick with one point of view a chapter. Don’t use passive voice. Kill all your adverbs.

All of these rules are very helpful for writers. They become rules because they do help books sound better. They help a writer.

However, there’s a backlash going on in the writing world. People are starting to ask question about the rules.

Ava Jae has a popular writing site, and he concedes writing advice is just that, advice. 
Jeff Gerke is a writing teacher, author, and publisher. On Facebook, he started a discussion about the writing rules out there because he wants to write a book about the rules. In his bookWrite Your Novel in a Month he argues that the only rule that can’t be broken is to be sure to engage the reader.

Finally, Rachelle Gardner, a respected agent with one of the top writing blogs, just talked about the rules being tools overall. They can help when a book isn’t working, but if it works to break a rule for the situation, then it’s okay.

This has helped me a lot. I know that I need to listen to advice from those who have experience. But I’ve also gotten conflicting advice. I got knocked off my groove for a couple of months after some bad feedback from a writing contest. Now I’m getting back into it and I’m realizing that I need to serve the story overall and use the rules as those tools, not as a bludgeoning hammer to force something into place.

I’m thankful for these people speaking up about the rules being more, well, guidelines to steal from a certain pirate captain. Hopefully my writing friends can be encouraged in the same way.


SO: any writing rules you’ve run across that have been used against your writing that really needed to be broken? Share them here and I’ll pass them on to Jeff Gerke for his book.

P.S. Did anyone notice the writing rule I broke in the first sentence?
P.S.S. Can you believe I’ve finally gotten a Writing Wednesday post out?