The Dirty Secret of Writing Rules

Writing rules are everywhere!  Just read a how-to book, an article from Writer’s Digest, or even do search the internet.  I’ve gotten to the point where I tossed the rules and to trust in the writing .  You have to start with X;  you have to do Y;  you can’t do Z–usually with dire consequences.  I’m sure someone will tell me I won’t get published, though the most dire consequence I’ve found is revision.  Rules can be bad for writers because they:

  • Instill fear.  A writer should not need to react with horror that he broke a rule or feel guilty.  Nor should he be berated for breaking it, or pressured into changing it.
  • Stifle creativity.  How can a writer feel creative or experiment if he’s worrying about breaking a rule?  Often the rules encourage writers not to try something new.
  • Not always good intentions.  Example:  Writer Joe decides gives workshops on writing and markets by promoting his outlining method.  He imposes a rule that if you write without an outline, you will never get published.

The dirty secret of writing rules is that many of them are only opinions and personal preferences.  Take everything with a healthy dose of skepticsm.