Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Guest Post: Writing Rules...I Mean Guidelines

As an aspiring writer, there are rules of fiction that I must live by. Show, don't tell. Stick with one point of view a chapter. Don't use passive voice. Kill all your adverbs.

All of these rules are very helpful for writers. They become rules because they do help books sound better. They help a writer.

However, there's a backlash going on in the writing world. People are starting to ask questions about the rules.

Ava Jae has a popular writing site, and she concedes writing advice is just that: advice. 

Jeff Gerke is a writing teacher, author, and publisher. Once on Facebook, he started a discussion about the writing rules out there because he was tired of seeing top-selling books that broke all the rules. It fed his latest book, The Irresistible Novel, where he argues that the only rule that can't be broken is to be sure to engage the reader.

Finally, Rachelle Gardner, a respected agent with one of the top writing blogs, just talked about the rules being tools overall. They can help when a book isn't working, but if it works to break a rule for the situation, then it's okay.

This has helped me a lot. I know that I need to listen to advice from those who have experience. But I've also gotten conflicting advice. Once I was knocked off my groove for a couple of months after some bad feedback from a writing contest. After a gut check, I realized that I needed to serve the story overall and use the rules as those tools, not as a bludgeoning hammer to force something into place.

I'm thankful for these people speaking up about the rules being more, well, guidelines to steal from a certain pirate captain. Hopefully my writing friends can be encouraged in the same way.

SO: any writing rules you've run across that have been used against your writing that really needed to be broken? 

P.S. Did anyone notice the writing rule I broke in the first sentence?

Today's guest post is from Jason Joyner. It originally appeared on his blog in August 2013.

Jason is a writer blogging at about his journey to publication, as well as social justice issues, faith, and the occasional silliness. He's written both suspense and superhero stories since he can't make up his mind. He's way too excited for the Star Wars movie coming out soon.
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  1. There is definitely a line between being clever and using the "rules" wisely and looking like you have no idea what you're doing. If you confuse the reader, you don't know what you're doing; if you confound other writers, more power to you. :) Beware snobs. And yeah, Star Wars...Christmas present...

  2. Love that lesson. It's one I learned back in college while working on music composition. Didn't really want to learn the rules for fear they would contaminate what I was creating, but they do help with structure.

  3. Yep--saw the grammar rule you broke in the first sentence. As an editor, I catch things like that. I'm one of those "learn the rules, then break 'em" people. Editors tend to be sticklers, authors tend to be rebels. It's funny how the two need each other.

    1. BTW: Welcome to AuthorCulture! Thanks for the guest post!

  4. Thanks, Jason! Sure appreciate you joining us today!!

  5. Thanks for having me and the warm welcome. Glad to be able to pitch in as a guest!