Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Rules Schmules

Hallo fine peoples! And welcome to the first 2017 meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

For this month's meeting the question is:

What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

But I'm not going to answer the question. At least not exactly. Because I will tell you this. For a while, rules killed my voice. You see... I'm not really a rules girl.

That said, a number of rules, like in life, are rules for a reason, and if you break them (like don't hit people) you are likely to get smacked upside the head for it. These writing rules, once learned, can just seem like common sense:

Information dumps pull the reader out of the story.
Adverbs are often a lazy substitution for a better verb.
Active language is more engaging.

But for every rule, there are also appropriate times to break them. We can all think of great books that do just that.

So as it is the new year, and the world is trying to impose moderation... think of rules as moderation and remember that even moderation should be done in moderation.

You heard me. Moderation in moderation. Rules followed in moderation.

But to walk the line, you do indeed need to KNOW the rules. And have your valid reason ready when you break them, otherwise an editor is going to argue with you. (and nine times out of ten these arguments are not worth having—you will just end up changing it anyway. Though I have argued and convinced editors on one or two points on every book I've worked with an editor on—but one or two points out of dozens of edits is a small number). Still, be true to your own voice and your narrative voice and most voices do not hold vises on the rules (see what I did there?)
I thought this was rather a beautiful way to put this

AH! But there are a couple writing rules I hate. And those are the rules that try to shame us into a certain PROCESS. Everybody is different. Anybody who claims to know the rules for getting a story written is full of himself. Some outline. Some pants. Some write daily. Some in bursts. (though REGULARLY is more productive). Some edit as they go. Some wait to the end. On process it really is Rules Schmules.

So there.

Any rules you hate?

Now go see what other insecure folks have to say about it!


Anonymous said...

I love, love, love this post! You're absolutely right about every person having their own voice and narrative. I think I'll put myself into a rule-breaker status. By the way, I love the Pirates of the Caribean reference. *Sigh* Happy New Year to you and yours and enjoy IWSG day! Eva, IWSG Co-host #60

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Hart - I'm afraid I follow what I need to follow ... as long as the work is interesting then that satisfies me ... cheers and HPN an good luck - Hilary

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm with you...hate that shaming, condescending advice! Every rule was made to be broken, in the right circumstance. :) Happy New Year, Hart!

Jan Morrison said...

You and I are as one on this. Fuggedabowdid! I only want to remember what works - not what enrages me.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Every rule has its place to be broken.

You're right about fighting a rule with an editor. The editor usually wins.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Love that quote! Thanks for sharing it. :)

mshatch said...

excellent post and I totally agree! Especially about the rules being more like guidelines, lol.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We don't need no stinkin' rules!
Don't worry, I don't claim to know the rules or the process.
Happy 2017!

Patsy said...

I feel we should know the rules, then decide which ones to follow and when.

Andrew Leon said...

People who follow "the rules" never discover anything new.

Sadira Stone said...

Yup, knowing the rules strengthens your writing, but intentionally breaking the rules for a good reason can add power to your writing. In my critique groups, I see a big difference in the quality of work between writers who deliberately ignore this or that rule in a specific instance for a specific reason, vs. writers who haven't a clue about readers' expectations and the way stories are usually structured.

G. B. Miller said...

No knowledge of rules here. Again, it's just simple plan common sense that needs to be applied.

Father Nature's Corner

Chemist Ken said...

Moderation. That's the key word here. Knowing when and where to break them is the key.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Rules in moderation sounds like great advice. Happy New Year.

2017 IWSG January Co-Host

Jenny Baranick said...

So, let me get this straight--no hitting people? Fine.

Helena said...

Sorry I'm so late in commenting!

Anyway, I love your defiance of rules. My own general approach to writing (it doesn't rise to the definition of a rule) is to be honest. My brain and heart pretty much guide me, but when I reread and edit (and I edit and re-edit and re-edit), I let my gut do the talking. If something just doesn't feel right in my solar plexus or I have the slightest misgiving, I'll change a passage. Seems to pretty much work for me.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

You said it very well. Few rules are 100% but knowing them helps you write better even if you sometimes break them.