Chaffing Under the Rules

I’m in a couple of critique groups, which are very helpful. As a new writer, it amazed me at how little I knew. I’ve been an avid reader for all my life, going through several books a week (until recently that is). Yet reading as a reader is so different than reading as a writer. I’ve learned about show versus tell, things which distance the reader, dialogue, and so much more.

Then I started reading books with a new perspective based upon all the guidelines I learned in my critique group. And what I found was very few published authors follow these special list of rules. So then there’s this thing I keep hearing: Until you’re published, just follow the rules. After you’re published then you can break them.

Honestly, I hate this concept. It’s like setting the standard for the readers, then saying “You know what? You bought my first book, I’m sure you’ll buy my second/third/whatever regardless of the crap I spew.” Please writers, If you have the ability to produce good work, don’t give your readers crap just because you have a fan following.

On the other hand, I find the rules stifling at times. When I take off my writer’s hat and just read as a reader, I still enjoy the books even when the writer breaks the rules. Writing isn’t about following the rules; it’s about creating enjoyable content. Check out the big name authors (Stephen King, Stephanie Meyers (recently), ). They tell stories people want to read. They don’t get bogged down by how many ‘to be’ verbs are on the page.

Rules are great. But don’t let them stifle your creativity. One of the great things about writing is artistic freedom.

0 thoughts on “Chaffing Under the Rules

  1. I absolutely agree, Tammy. The finished product should be error free–No typos, proper grammar, the works. On the other hand, ‘to be’ verbs are not errors. Also, using a dialogue tag other than ‘said’ or ‘asked’ is not an error. These are style things.

    🙂 I can see a reader becoming distracted if every other tag is ‘he hissed’ ‘he groaned’ or whatever. Or tell everything with ‘to be’ verbs. Writers can go overboard when throwing off the rules.

    I think the rules/guidelines as a box of tools. They’re excellent to have around. I try to keep them in mind as a write. However, I don’t think a writer has to jump in the box with the tools in order to produce a story readers will love.

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