Writing Rebels

Breaking rules for fun and profit.

If you’re a writer, or read writing blogs, you may have noticed that there’s a lot of rules centered around “good” writing. Rules such as: don’t use adverbs. Kill your darlings. Don’t use too many commas. Don’t write in present tense. Or second person. Never use dialogue tags.

The list goes on almost indefinitely, covering everything from grammar to chapter style to content. It evolves depending on who you are talking to or reading, and can get a bit overwhelming when taken all together. Most especially when you are first starting to explore writing. Sometimes, it can get so overwhelming it can even ruin your writing, driving the heart and soul and the ever-elusive “voice” out of your precious story. Occasionally, an adverb or two is exactly what the sentence needs, and sometimes the story only flows in present tense. I promise, the world doesn’t end when you use three commas in one sentence. Dialogue tags are not inherently evil, really they aren’t.

Now, I certainly do not want to imply that all rules should be ignored. Rules, especially language rules, are there for a reason. Without them, everyone would be incomprehensible to everyone else, because we’d all be making it up as we go along. Writing strives to communicate with as many people as possible, therefore making it all the more imperative that our language be as recognizable and standardized as possible. I also firmly believe that every writer needs to know the rules of writing by heart as soon as possible. After all, it’s hard to break the rules properly if you don’t know what they are.

There is a distinct difference between breaking the rules out of ignorance, and breaking them deliberately and with purpose. Even if your purpose is simply that you prefer the way the writing flows with the broken rule than with the intact rule, you should be conscious of that breakage. Deliberate breakage of rules is one of the many tiny ways that an author’s voice develops into individuality.

Be a rebel. Go out and break a few rules. But do it on purpose.

Thought for the Week: “If I’d observed all the rules, I’d never have got anywhere.” Marilyn Monroe

Currently Reading: Arrow’s Fall by Mercedes Lackey



  1. Diane Amy said,

    December 5, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Great thoughts! And I’m with you on being a rebel… as long as you understand how and why you’re being one.

    • Lia said,

      December 5, 2010 at 8:45 pm

      Hurray for more rebels!! ^_^ I hold myself down to only breaking rules on purpose and with consistency. At least I try to.

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