Rylee Black Books

Should Writers Break the Rules?

The rules of writing, and do we need to follow them. Wow, I know this can be a volatile topic. I’ve been witness to quite a few debates on this subject, and I can bear witness that some of them became rather heated. It would seem there are three camps when it comes to the rules: those who follow them to the letter, those who say throw them all out the window, and those who fall somewhere in the middle. 

I am one of those who falls in the middle. Do I think you should follow the rules? Yes. Do I believe they should be bent or even broken if it fits your work? Absolutely! Proper spelling, grammar, and sentence structure are all important concepts, and there are a few that I rarely if ever break. But if a character’s dialect or speech pattern dictates that I use poor spelling and grammar to get that across, then I will. And there are times that a lengthy run-on sentence is the best way to portray a character who is extremely excited or upset about something. I start sentences with conjunctions at will. I use adverbs (gasp…I know, I’m terrible.). My characters do things other than “said”. They’ve been known to scream, yell, grunt, whisper… Well, you get the point. Sometimes breaking the rules makes your story come more to life.

There are more writing rules than there are stars in the sky. It basically comes down to this. If it works for your story–BREAK THE RULES! (You rebel you!!!) It’s your book. It’s your writing. There will be those who might not like it, but what it all boils down to is it is yours. In the end, it’s your readers who will tell you if your reckless abandon was worth it. I will qualify this by saying that if a beta reader or even an editor suggests you change something, perhaps you should. Or perhaps you shouldn’t. If you feel strongly that your story is best told the way it is written, stick to your guns. I’m not saying to be hard-headed and obstinate. Face it, there are going to be times that you fall so in love with the way you’ve written something that you become blind to the fact that it’s really, reallybad (sigh, been there, done that; it’s a sad, sad thing.). Those are the times that you need to bite the bullet and let go. (They say letting go is liberating 🙂 ) 

My advice is to go ahead and lurk on writing forums (or you can participate, I prefer to lurk on those.) and Facebook pages (I participate occasionally there). There are a lot of really intelligent people out there, and they often offer up a plethora of amazing tips. Just don’t get too bogged down in what they’re saying. If you read or hear something that strikes a cord with you (Or makes you blush at the thought that you’ve actually had people read things you’ve written.), then by all means change your ways. But please, please, please don’t give up who you are as a writer simply because someone says the way you’re doing things is “wrong”. Writing is subjective; any art form is. What may be cringe worthy and unacceptable to one, may be glorious and wonderful to another. 

These same concepts can be applied to scenes in your story. I can’t count the times I’ve been on a forum (yes, I was lurking… Perhaps I need some kind of support group or something?) and seen someone say ‘I plan to have such and such happen in my book, do you think that’s okay?’. While some are just looking for validation that their idea is as wonderful as they think it is, other’s are truly looking for an answer. My question is: Why? If you want that to happen, let it happen. The only one who knows your characters and where they are likely to take you is you. 

So, writers—Write. Don’t worry so much. When you get bogged down with what is right and/or wrong, your work will lose its momentum. Just set your fingers on the keys (or your pen to your paper) and let ‘er rip! You’ll be surprised at how free that can make you feel. 

You may ask where I get my qualifications to say these things. I have no degree, but I’ve read thousands of books. (Thousands? you ask with a doubtful look on your face. Yes, if I let myself read with abandon, I can read five or six (or more) books a week and I’m almost fifty-six; so yes, thousands.) I personally enjoy an author who will do what it takes to bring their story to life no matter what that might be; even if it means they break the rules.

Feel free to comment here or visit my Facebook page: Rylee Black Author, and let’s start one of those heated discussions. 

4 thoughts on “Should Writers Break the Rules?

  1. Atta girl! A writer shares imagination with others. They can either participate or just immerse themselves and escape

  2. Breaking the rules is one of the most worrisome subjects when starting out writing again. All the rules I’ve forgotten or never quite learned in the first place have me cowering in the corner. I’ve found when I let loose, though, and just write out what’s going on in my head it is much easier for me to adjust after the fact. I hope to one day be as fluent in writing as you are, and not only be able to get a thought across, but get it across so well and understandable!

    Pardon my fangirling!

    1. Hi LeAnn 🙂
      I’m glad you found the article useful! Learning the basic rules for writing fiction is necessary, but don’t please don’t get bogged down in “should’s” and “shouldn’t’s”. I almost quit writing early on because I got so wrapped up in what ‘they’ say you should and shouldn’t do that I was afraid to write at all because I was afraid it ‘wouldn’t be right’. Thankfully I decided one day to push all that stuff out of my mind and just write. Letting loose and writing is the very best way to write because in the end, you can edit bad writing but you can’t edit a blank page. Basically beyond basic grammar and punctuation rules, there are no real rules that you ‘must’ follow.
      I have no doubt that one day you’ll reach all your writing dreams. Practice a lot, read a lot, and repeat – that’s the key.
      Keep on writing!

      And by the way, I’m loving the fangirl – that’s a writer’s dream lol

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