Saturday, January 4, 2014

Writing Style – Break the Rules [but know them]

With every occupation you are either growing or withering.

We writers must keep developing our skillset just like a computer geek.

I have tons of (okay, maybe a dozen) writing style books in the shelf above my monitor. I read blogs every day, particularly those espousing/summarizing the better writing lessons. One blogger I follow religiously (yeah, I don't comment much, Karen) is Karen Woodward.

In her post Friday, "Theme: What It Is And Why Your Story Needs One," she makes a suggestion, the kind that drives me nuts. (No offense, Karen, I just needed a springboard to rationalize my rant *smile*.)

Okay, I'm no expert. I don't have a PhD in literature. But I've published 22 novels, so have spent some time thinking about this writing stuff.

While Karen only made the suggestion in her summary, that if a scene doesn't [could be completed with thousands of rules]…consider striking it.

I worry about the new writer overly embracing the RULES. Writing can be simplistic, linear, clean. Or it can be rich and colorful. To be the latter, the writer will break just about every rule.

I'm not talking about technical rules. (But even those can be intentionally broken to improve a bland passage. [Though the writer must be firm in her craft, know that she is breaking the rule for a purpose])

Writer, do read, read, and read the style manuals. They are the river of the craft. But be capable of swimming against the current to thrill your reader.

The most important recommendation I have ever read (Leonard) – leave out the stuff the reader skips over.

Have a great weekend

-R. Mac Wheeler


  1. I'm all for breaking the rules, at times. We all know it works, and can happen at the most unpredictable times!

  2. Good advice. I too agree that we should read, read and read again all the "rules" and then be courageous enough to break them with intention and purpose.

  3. Photography has its own rules, too, and oftentimes those can be broken without the image suffering. I say go with your gut!

  4. I'm for breaking rules too, as long as it comes off as rule breaking and not ignorance. And I love theme. But I use pay attention to theme in my pictures too. Without theme, your stories end up being all over the place, and your pictures look like some random shot. Sometimes it works. Often it doesn't.

  5. Nice reminder to remember the story is first ... once you have the basics of characterization, setting the scene, and plot twists down.

    Writers should also be aware that 'breaking the rules' can lead to lower reviews.