Breaking the Rules

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Fiction, writer, writing, Writing/Publishing

A writer “breaks the rules” as a way of making a point or eliciting certain reactions from the reader. Just like pacing, foreshadowing, creating suspense, and showing, not telling, breaking a rule is a tool, but one to be used carefully. Just as a flashback can be effective, having too many flashbacks becomes annoying at best, and at worst is an indication of poor plotting and sloppy writing.

Those writers who break the rules and do so effectively often don ‘t think about rules and how to break them. The result is not so much breaking a rule as it is a matter of being aware of the world they are creating and how the words they are using work to make that world come alive. In short, it is often more a byproduct of the creative process than a technique or planned event.

Interestingly enough it tends to be those writers just beginning their writing careers who want to start breaking rules. And while it is understandable that a writer at any stage of his/her career should want to become the best writer they can be, it comes as it comes.

The Answer

But for those who are still twitching and squirming in your seat waiting for the ultimate answer, here it is: When is it OK to break the rules? When you have hundreds of thousands of words under your belt and you simply sit down at the keyboard every day with no thought of “breaking the rules,” you will be ready.

And by that time, it won’t be breaking the rules. It’ll simply be you being an effective writer.

  1. Paula Petty says:

    I have heard that you can’t break a rule until you know how to follow the rule. Great post. Thanks.

  2. I just broke a rule–stopped reading a very scary manuscript–and checked e-mail. And the e-mail alerted me to your new post. This was a nice “break.” Great post.Now back to the reading…

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