This picture has been floating around Facebook and made me laugh out loud (yep LOL for real):
There are so many “rules” writers are supposed to follow, it becomes exhausting to try to read and follow them all. Especially for new writers it can be so easy to look up all the writing rules and try desperately not to make a mistake. Sometimes though your creativity can be stumped and let’s be honest, rules are made to be broken right?
Some rules are necessary like showing not telling although from my own experience this can be tough to get right or word counts – don’t send an agent a 200,000 word novel and some are there because some things have become cliches like beginning your novel with your main character waking up. But even so, there are exceptions out there. Divergent by Veronica Roth, for example, is a book I loved and has been really successful – look out for the film version soon – and it opens with the main character looking at herself in the mirror – one of the no-no’s if you read the “rules”. It works in Divergent though because the character is only allowed to look at her reflection when her mum cuts her hair once a year – straight away we know she’s in a different world and we’re intrigued about it. Technically, Ms Roth broke a rule though.
In my own book, I have broken one of these “rules” by using flashbacks. A lot of writing tips sites and books say not to use this device but it’s in there and my agent even encouraged me to add more of them. If I’d listened to and followed the rules out there, I may not have written the same book.
A recent article in the Guardian made me really angry by criticising writers on how they use Twitter – again giving us more rules to follow. You can read the article here. Writers find Twitter useful because generally we’re working alone and it allows us to communicate with other writers and when we’re published, with our readers. And let’s face it, we’re often full to the brim with self-doubt so if someone on there says something nice about our books, we are going to be flattered and hell, even retweet it. So, what? I think you should be yourself on social networking and run your Twitter how you way to – obviously, if you’re kind of mean you’re not going to get anywhere but you should be free to interact with your fans. If I ever get a 5* review, you can be sure I’ll shout about it 🙂
I suppose this post is a rather long-winded way of saying that your writing (and social networking) needs to be your creation, you need to find and express your voice in the only way you can and this might mean breaking some of those writing “rules”. I don’t think any truly successful book has ever got to that point by being quiet – they’ve got there by being different and shouting about those differences. Even if you think they’re badly written (naming no names here but you can guess) they’ve made a splash and I think if you want to, you need to follow your own path.
What do you think about writing rules? Have you ever broken them?