Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blog Chain - Taking and Breaking the Rules



Kate started the chain this round, and she really threw me a curve ball here. The question she posed was running a loop in my head when I woke up at 3am this morning. Wow, I'm really going to have to use my brain !

What writing rules/advice - whether it was a matter of cannot or will not - have you broken?

I think I may have broken them all at one point or another and I have to say that I think everyone should break the rules at least once as well. Now, I'm not encouraging sloppy writing or disregarding the guidelines that everyone pretty much follows. But what I am saying is that you learn from your mistakes and if you don't break the rules, you won't know to follow them later.

Like Kate, I've written run-on sentences that were small paragraphs and no matter how many times I read them--they sounded just fine to me. I've thrown caution to the wind and infused my sentences with as many "ly" words as I could type, thinking that rather than violating a huge rule, I was spicing up an otherwise bland sentence. I've told and not shown, opting to shrink a large chunk of narrative into a Reader's Digest-sized bite of information. And I've violated POV so many times, I'm sure my crit partners were banging their foreheads against their keyboard.

But by breaking the rules, I became a better writer. I learned how to craft my run-ons into more manageable sentences. I've discovered that the occasional "ly" adverb is okay, as long as every sentence doesn't end in one. I know now that telling is fine in certain circumstances and the reader does not need to be led by the hand through every--little--detail. And I've discovered that violating the POV..... okay, it's NEVER alright to violate the POV, but like I said, breaking the rules taught me some valuable lessons.

My first novel is FULL of broken rules, and has been revised more times than I can count and is about to go back to the "crit pool". But what I learned from all those broken rules helped me with my new WIP and the result was a cleaner, tighter chunk of writing that needed less critique, less revision, and less work.

It's like I tell my volleyball team-- "This is how we learn." By making mistakes, violating rules, we become better players. We learn what does and does not work for our team and individual players. It's how we hone our skills and excute those skills to the best of our ability. And by testing the waters, the players know when it's okay to break form and go for the emergency dump. Or never, never under any circumstances, recieve a serve with one arm.

I say break the rules at least once! And then, once you've learned your lesson, you can decide whether you should break them again. Check out Sandra's post tomorrow to find out what rules she does... or doesn't break!


15 comments:

Michelle McLean said...

LOL yeah, I'm a rule breaker...though usually not intentionally :D You are right, I think you learn best by making mistakes. And frankly, I think some rules were just made to be broken. I like my adverbs ;-D I do try to edit them out, but I leave in as many as I can :D

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Oh no - my question caused 3am problems! Eeep... sorry:) All that late night thinking paid off though - cause this is a great answer! I love your thesis that only by breaking the rules can we really know which ones truly need to be followed - great job!

Rebecca Knight said...

It's so true about learning more from breaking the rules than by following them :D. Of course, then there's the clean up... lol!

ElanaJ said...

By breaking rules, we learn. I like that. :)

Cole Gibsen said...

Well done! I agree. Sometimes people can break all the rules and they're hailed "innovative" and other times, well, not so much...

Suzanne said...

Nice post. Me too. All of it.

B.J. Anderson said...

Very well thought out response to this topic. For me, I didn't know a lot of the "rules" until after I'd broken them. Then I'd get big red gashes all over my manuscript when I'd hand them to crit partners or enter them in contests. It's all a learning process. Great post!

christine said...

Love this post - and this topic. But geez...what am I gonna say???

Sharla said...

Totally totally totally me too. Especially with the adverbs and leading the reader through every...little....detail. I'm bad on that! And I way overwrite and have to go back and trim. I'm much better on this second novel, much more structured and paying close attention to what are always my weaknesses.

Sandra said...

I think you actually have to learn the rules in order to break them effectively. Perhaps writers grow by breaking the rules unwittingly, then slavishly following the rules, and finally breaking the rules purposely.

Gee, I used a lot of adverbs in that last sentence. Did I break a rule? ;)

Eric said...

Great response to the chain question. I like how you turn it around as an opportunity rather than something bad. Nice job.

Sarah Bromley said...

I fully agree with learning to be a better writer by breaking the rules. Good post!

Annie Louden said...

I don't think that actively breaking a rule and unknowingly making a mistake are the same thing. However, I agree that you can learn from both.

kat said...

I'm definitely a girl who learns quickly from mistakes. I find it strange, though, that I've made so many and yet I have so much more to learn. :-)

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Great answer.