Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rules for Writers Who Hate Writing Rules

I'm not big on writing rules. My post Are You Guilty of Writing No-Nos? was the last I made on the subject, and it didn't exactly lay out a list of rules you must obey. That's because I hate writing rules. Yep. I said it. I have a hard time with anyone telling me what to do in the creative department. Grammar, punctuation, hard-core English mistakes need correction. Sentence structure sometimes needs correction. But the way you use words to paint your mental picture should be up to you.

A wonderful high school English teacher I had said once you have learned the rules, then it's okay to break them. But when you break them, you have to do it with a purpose and it has to be for the better.

And that's my first rule for writers who hate writing rules. 

DO learn the rules of grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure before you start tossing all of them out the window. Know how to write well within the boundaries first.

I don't hold to the "We're new writers. We're not allowed to break rules!" attitude. It makes me feel insulted and angry. Just because you're new to publishing doesn't mean you're new to the English language and the writing craft. Only you can make the call that something isn't working. Yes, even if you get criticism out the wazoo, it's still up to you to do the editing.

Which brings me around to the second rule.

DO get another set of eyes (you're not related to) to glance over your work. And when they mention something that didn't make sense, take it into consideration. Get as many pairs of eyes as you can and weigh their responses. Then decide what to edit.

Even if you think you're God's gift to literature, it's still prudent to have a proofreader, beta reader, or creative partner (CP) to offer a second look to your manuscript. You can only benefit from a new pair of eyes and a fresh perspective. When we're up to our eyeballs in word vomit, we can't always see the mistakes, the changes of voice, tense, or glaring catastrophes of sentence structure.

The last rule I'll mention is along those lines. 

DO consider what the professionals have to say. You can have a hundred CPs and beta readers, but a trained editor can spot trouble faster and offer suggestions they might not have thought of. Editors can see the bigger picture regarding plot and character development - things your CPs might not want to touch with a ten-foot pole. Use their experience and get your work in front of them whenever you can.

And that's it. Three rules for writers who hate writing rules. Bear in mind, if you don't have a handle on the first rule, you're not ready to move on to the second two.

If you have any Rules for Writers Who Hate Writing Rules of your own, please share them!


  1. Don't rush. Just do everything in your own time :)

    And HAVE FUN!

  2. I guess I would add this: make sure to understand why said rules exist. If you know why a certain "rule" of writing came to be, you'll know how to break that rule intelligently and gracefully.

    I also second Miss Cole :) Though I am very, very, veryyyyyy guilty of feeling the need to rush the process. (For a variety of reasons--some of which are valid and some of which are probably not.)

  3. Great advice, Miss Cole! Sometimes we get pressured by other writers who are further ahead in the game and we try to catch up. But that'll just make our MS suffer.

    Definitely, Susan! I'd say that bit of wisdom should go along with learning grammar and sentence structure.

  4. These are great tips!

    I've really been enjoying your blog ... and as a result have nominated you for a blog award!!


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