Friday, July 13, 2012

Breaking The Rules

by Calista Taylor

I'll admit, I have a running list of rules in my head constantly muttering and nagging at me when I write. Show, don't tell. Don't use "that". No head hopping pov's. Avoid dialog tags. The list goes on and on. However, this wasn't always the case.

When I first started writing, the only thing in my head were my characters' voices. I stuck to the rules of grammar, but other than that, I wrote with complete abandon, totally unaware of all the writing rules I was breaking and would mark my work as that of a young writer.

Needless to say, looking back at those first attempts at writing is pretty scary. I was cutting my teeth on those first attempts. And yet ... looking at my first completed manuscript (there were plenty of false starts), there's something about the voice and how the story's told that works. And it works in part because the rules didn't come into play.

Was the writing better back then? No. But I can say that it's made me realize something important. I know the rules. And now that I do, I can perfect breaking them.

Do you always follow the rules? Have you always ignored them? Or did you start only once you mastered them?

Calista Taylor is the author of two romance series, and also works as a cover artist.


Matt Sinclair said...

I often push the rules aside -- mostly when they cause things to become muddy. But I know what they are. As a lifelong voracious reader, I absorbed a lot of the rules before I knew they were rules, but that amount of reading also made me privy to examples of rule breaking.

Jemi Fraser said...

I agree - we have to know and understand the reasons for the rules in the first place before we can break them with success.

I do like to break the sentence rule a lot. My writing has a lot of sentence fragments in it. I like the pace it creates, but I have to be careful not to overdo it! :)

Lynn Proctor said...

i think i pretty much break all of the rules and yes some i know and probably a lot i don't :)

Calista Taylor said...

Matt, you're lucky to have absorbed so much before sitting down to write. I'm afraid I only learned the rules once I started.

Jemi, I love using fragments for effect too!

Lynn, with so many rules out there, I'm sure we're all breaking rules we're not aware of. ; )

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

Yes - such a great, succinct way to put it - only after practice and experience (and "research" - lots of reading) can we effectively follow and break rules appropriately.

Jean Oram said...

Oh, the rules!!! The rules, the rules, the rules. It is a problem, isn't it? But sometimes breaking them and writing with abandon brings about some pretty incredible things, doesn't it? Could you imagine The Road with dialogue tags, etc.? Maybe. Maybe not. ;)

petemorin said...

I'm skeptical of people who attack "the rules" too vehemently. It usually means they don't know them.

Calista Taylor said...

Thank you, ProfeJMarie!

Jean, I suspect when we know the rules, even when we write with abandon and disregard, they still end up having an effect. Maybe that's why it's good to know them-- then you can strike that balance even when you try to ignore them. : )

Pete, I have found that to be the case, but I've also seen those who'll vehemently argue that no one should ever stray from the rules, even if it means their writing, despite being perfectly "correct" will also be bland as baby custard and lacking all voice.

Debra McKellan said...

Pretty sure I didn't know the rules until college. *v*