Episode 33 – Breaking the Writing Rules

What is the possible reason for breaking writing rules?

It depends on who makes the rules. Some writers make their own rules that work for them, and while these can be tested, they almost certainly are made to be broken. Then there are well-established rules, such as grammar, which if broken, would put off an agent or reader. There again, in modern writing, some grammar rules are broken for effect, but these should always be done consciously and not by accident.

You might want to embrace your creativity and not be hampered by rules; for example, we are told to avoid clichés. After all, rules are made to be broken! In the podcast, Anna and I talk about when we choose to break the rules of writing.

Break the rules to take a risk as this sometimes leads to innovation.

You might need to break the rules to stay true to your vision.

We discuss writing from a single person’s point of view and avoiding head-hopping, where an author writes in the first or close third point of view but swaps to another character’s point of view partway through a chapter or even a paragraph without warning the reader. Another mistake is to allow a character to have information that is shouldn’t be available to them.

We talk about Story Grid as usual and how that provides structure and rules in the form of Genre, which in turn gives us conventions and obligatory scenes. The argument is that when a reader picks up a book in a particular genre, they are expecting a specific reading experience. It’s essential to meet reader expectation if you want to sell novels. Skill and creativity come from innovating the detail. How can you make a love or fight scene memorable?

There’s a difference between breaking the rules deliberately and breaking the rules through ignorance. An example is when we accidentally overuse a word in a paragraph, whereas a poet might choose to repeat a word for emphasis.

If you want to try a liberating exercise, write for 10 minutes while deliberately breaking at least one writing rule.

Are there any writing rules that you break or would like to break? Let us know in the comments below.