5 Writing Rules To Break

While writing my series on creativity, I started thinking about breaking rules.  (Click here to read Part One of the series, and click here to read Part Two.  Part Three will be posted tomorrow.)  So, today, I want to talk about breaking writing rules.

In yesterday’s post on creativity, I mentioned that one key to creativity is that there are no rules.  When it comes to writing, however, you’ll find plenty of rules.  Way too many, in my opinion.  In writing, you’ll find rules about grammar, rules about style, and rules about publishing. 

I, however, believe that rules are made to be broken.  And so, without further ado, here is the Official Word Strumpet Guide to Rules That Can (And Should) Be Broken:

Rule #1:  Use Semi-colons.

My Word grammar checker is forever trying to force semi-colons on me.  I am strong, though, and I refuse to let those little buggers have their way with me.  The semi-colon is just a wee bit too formal and proper for my taste.  I like my grammar a little looser and wilder.  You can have your semi-colons, I’ll take a comma any day.

Rule #2:  Obey "No Simultaneous Submissions" Guidelines.

Puh-leeze.  I could have grandchildren living in a colony on Mars by the time some editors and agents would deign to get back to me about a submission.  Meanwhile, I’m supposed to be a good girl and not send my work anywhere else?  I don’t think so.  Editors say they hate it when they find a good story, only to contact the writer and learn its been accepted elsewhere.  So?  Then get your butts in gear faster.  As for the poor writer who has the awful dilemma of a story being desired by two editors:  We. Should. All. Be. So. Lucky.

Rule #3:  Don’t Use Adverbs. 

"I really, truly, love adverbs," I said affirmatively.  Okay, over usage of adverbs is bad, I agree, but then over usage of anything except red wine at the end of a long day is bad.  It is an egregious sin to use adverbs with dialogue tags, but a few adverbs sprinkled here and there in other parts of your prose never hurt a thing.  She said positively.

Rule #4: Write What You Know.

Excuse Me?  I wouldn’t have a job if I always wrote about what I know.  In the last few months I’ve written about global warming, Voodoo, quilting, spiritual leaders, selling good on ebay, kitchen remodeling, bathroom accessories, roof racks, astrology, and piano music, to name only a few.  I knew a little about some of those topics when I started, but certainly not very much.  Let’s face it, roof racks are not something I’ve ever thought much about, let alone know anything on.  T

This writing commandment clearly (you see how well that adverb works there?) came about in a simpler time, back before the internet, in the days before we had Wikipedia.  Those were the days before it was possible to learn everything you need to know about any subject by Googling it. 

And, let’s face it, if you write fiction about only what you know, ie, your life, you’re going to end up hurting a lot of people. 

Rule #5:  All SEO Writing is Fluff.

I will grant you that most of it is, indeed, fluff.  And some of it is just plain crap. However, my rule when writing keyword dense copy is to give the content some value, no matter how minor.  I admit, sometimes the value is minuscule.  But approaching the writing of SEO copy is this manner helps raise it overall.

Anybody else have a sacred cow they want to slay?

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4 Comments on "5 Writing Rules To Break"

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kellypea
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kellypea
07/12/2007 22:37

I love no rules. But voice always has to be a rule. A terrific example of breaking all the rules can be found in the book I’m reading right now: The History of Love. Unbelievable.

Charlotte
Guest
07/13/2007 20:22

I’ll have to check out The History of Love, especially since it breaks all the rules!

Having a unique voice is certainly at least a key to good writing–and I don’t think a strong voice usually comes from following the rules.

Charlotte

eagerblogger
Guest
07/13/2007 21:19

I wish I could be a good writer. Well… not just good, but very good. I know my limitations and I’m thinking that I might be a better proofreader than writer.

You’ve written, “Way to may, in my opinion.” I think you meant many.

Thanks! 🙂

Charlotte
Guest
07/14/2007 10:57

Hey Eagerblogger,

Half of being a good writer is practice. And just doing it. Truly. You’re way better at it than you think, especially given that you are a regular blogger.

And you are an excellent proofreader. Thanks for the heads up on the typo. No matter how many times I spell-check and preview posts, I still seem to miss things.

Charlotte

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