6 Writing Rules to Break

6 Writing Rules to Break
You’ve seen them, haven’t you?  I’m talking about those pronouncements that writers often make about what one must do to be a writer.  More than guidelines, these are definitely rules.  Let’s talk about some of the rules for writers that are laid down by the so-called experts.  The following “rules” are actual statements that I have read in writing books and/or magazines.

1.   A writer must write every day.

Why is that?  Even Stephen King takes a break from writing on Sundays.  Sometimes a writer just needs to think and plan instead of forcing the writing.  Just writing every day without thinking and planning at least some part of the book at a time could lead to the dreaded 100 page syndrome.  You know, where you write the first several chapters, then you stop and put the manuscript into a drawer, or leave it unfinished on your computer, or even–horrors!–delete it.  So, take some time to draw a deep breath, think and plan.

2. Cut out description and get to the action. 

Really?  Maybe you should read Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring series–or read it again.  Tolkien has lots of description, much of it almost poetic in nature.  Coming closer to our times, examine Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.  He also has plenty of descriptive writing and he is certainly successful.

3. Plunge right into the action. 

Well, maybe.  Maybe not.  I’d like to learn at least a little about the character before she gets dumped into a load of trouble, but I agree that modern readers want to be pulled into the story quickly.

4.  There should be only one plot to a book.

Oh?  What about subplots?  Subplots can add depth to the story and help the action along.

5.  Know who you are writing for.

This makes sense commercially, but not creatively.  I write the stories that pop into my mind and won’t leave me alone. Often I have no idea WHO I’m writing for–unless–it’s anyone who enjoys a good story!

6. You must want to write more than anything else.  

It is true that writing and improving your writing needs to be important to you, otherwise you may find excuses never to sit down in front of your computer.    My writing is important to me.  I need to write.  But–come on!  More than anything else?  My family comes first, especially my husband, children, and grandchildren.  The summer my mother died I didn’t write (or think or plan writing) for six months.  Taking care of her was far more important to me than feeling fulfilled.

So there you have it.  Six writing rules that you have my permission to break.  🙂

What do you think about writing rules?  Have you heard some that you think are arbitrary?


About Sue

From the time, as a young girl, when Sue read the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, she was hooked on fantasy. She loves to read fiction and write within many genres, but she always winds up going back to fantasy. For years she has had fantasy stories spinning around in her head and now that she is retired from many years of teaching, she is putting those stories into book form. She has many interests, including quilting and playing the mountain dulcimer, but writing is the most satisfying of all. Sue lives in the great state of Maine with her husband of 38 years. She has been a factory worker, a waitress, a librarian, and a teacher. Her biggest job was being a mother and she has three grown children. Now that she is a grandmother, she is enjoying that role immensely.

Posted on November 7, 2012, in about writing, Authors - Sue Santore and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I agree on all the above, but does it help………………………… 🙂

    • but does it help………………………… Not sure what you mean. Can you elaborate?

      • Sorry Sue, I meant the bit about not writing everyday. Will a relaxed aproach to not writing everyday help a fellow writer whose only experience is, practice makes perfect?

      • Oh, I do think we need to write on a regular basis. I know one writer who sets aside three afternoons a week and writes for three hours on those days. Some of us need a set schedule. I just don’t think it has to be every day.

  2. I fully agree with you, Sue. For me, writing is a passion I couldn’t do without, but my family will always come first. Also, I take the weekends off (unless it’s NaNoWriMo). And although I have a vague idea who I’m writing my stories for, I”m not worrying about that when I write. Some stories just need to be told the way I want them. figuring out who’ll like them is a different part of getting the book “out there”.

  3. Fabulous stuff Sue. In a way these rules are just a straw man, left over from the days when “writing” was exclusive (because agents and publishing houses controlled everything) so success demanded toeing the line and your every waking hour to meet deadlines, etc. But the digital wave of disruption has shattered most of those barriers. Even “back then”, there were lots of folks who wrote and never told anyone, or showed their work. Now they can so easily.

    My personal peeve is the one about eliminating all adverbs. Wha-aat? That came from RL Stine, writing horror for preteens- easy for him, with no world to build!

    • Yeah, that old no adverbs at all rule is annoying. Sure you can overdo it and those examples are usually the ones that are given. But–never to use an adverb? I don’t think so.

  4. Great post, Sue. Personally, I think all rules are available for breakage, but it’s important to understand what the rule is trying to guard against so that you break it wisely *g*

  1. Pingback: 6 Writing Rules to Break | Sue Santore: Writing and Cooking and Sewing, Oh My!

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