I Don’t Need No Stinking Rulz
One of the things I’ve discovered about writers on the internet is that they love citing rules to other writers.
Got a prologue? Get rid of it. There’s a rule against it.
Dream sequence? Nope. There’s a rule against that, too.
These rules emerged from guidelines identifying things beginning writers misused, overused, or did badly. But they turned into “Don’t do it at all,” as opposed to “Learn how to do it well.”
When we try to break the rules and do it well, we’re often told, “You have to know the rules to break the rules.” What does that mean? How do we know at the point where we know the rules and can break them? If we ask other writers, they fall back on”You have to know the rules to break the rules.”
I learned how to write by reading novels. Sometimes I see a writing element an author used, and I want to try it out myself. Little did I realize that if a published author does something that breaks the rules, I’m not allowed to experiment with it. Other writers descend and tell us a published writer can get away with breaking a rule, but we can’t. So we’re supposed to read published books and learn from them, but we can only things that follow the rules?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s a way of trying to control something when so much of the control is out of the writer’s hands. I sent two short articles to the Washington Post Magazine. Once I clicked submit, it went into a black hole. I don’t know if the editor will read it, like it, or even respond.
What do you think is behind this obsession with rules? Tell me about a time when you broke the “writing rulez” and why you did it?
- Posted in: Thoughts