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Are the Rules Any Good?

disobedientcatsWhether you’ve been writing for a while or you’ve just started, you have encountered at least some rules. Show, don’t tell. Keep it brief. Kick out the adverbs. You have to write an outline. Your writing will be terrible if you don’t do so-and-so.

Some of the rules make sense to you. Some don’t. Some just confuse you. Maybe you try to follow a rule, fail, and think you’ll never be a good writer. Or that the rule is stupid. The other rule is also stupid. Who invented them, and whatever for?

If it doesn’t work for you, it can get frustrating.

The thing with the rules is that no rule will be good for everyone, but you don’t know if it works for you unless you try. I didn’t like writing outlines, but then I realized that writing them is creative in itself, it’s a tremendous fun, and it speeds up the writing process considerably (and no, an outline doesn’t kill creativity, not even a little).

The thing with the rules is that they give you structure, and writing needs structure, otherwise it can easily turn into rambling. You try them on for size. Follow them and see how it turned out. What worked? What didn’t? Why did it work? Why didn’t it work? Honesty is of great  help here. Say, you kicked out all the adverbs, and the sentence is now terrible. Chances are, it was terrible from the start, the flowery adverbs were just making it difficult to see. Or, you’re showing, you’re telling nothing, but your voice got lost in it, or you have shown a bunch of events nobody wants to see and which would have served their purpose better if they were just described.

And what about the masters of the craft, of those who break the rules, and yet, it works?

Masters of the craft are well aware of the rules. They know them. They may speak about rules with despise because of their reputation, say that the inspiration just struck them, and they wrote it, and what are those rules you’re talking about, anyway — and then you find out that they crafted their piece very carefully, revised it fifty times, and tweaked this rule because of so-and-so serving their specific purpose, and that rule, too, to serve a very specific purpose.

They are skilled enough to know what rule they can break and when. They may also create a few more rules on the go, rules catering to their own needs. But they don’t disregard all the rules and just put whatever on the paper.

Rules are good for a start. If you want to break them, you have to know them and understand them first.

And then you might decide to follow them, because they’re actually helping you. Or to create your own, and follow those.

That’s how I see it, anyway. How about you?


A writer, a reader, a dreamer. Dreaming myself into existence.

4 thoughts on “Are the Rules Any Good?

    1. Thanks! I see the rules as pointers. If you’re very familiar with the neighborhood, you’ll know the shortcuts and the paths with a more scenic view, but if you’re in the (somewhat) new territory, pointers can save your hide. 🙂


  1. The rules are like a grindstone, the writer, a dull and rusty blade. The writer writes to the rules and in doing so, hones their skill, knocking away the rust and excess garbage until a fine edge of wordiness remains. Then, only then, when their words cut like razors and make the reader feel every slice…then, they can start cutting without the grindstone.


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