They’re More Like Guidelines

Any time you read a writing blog or book, join a new writers group, or even get talking with some fellow writers, there will be a list of “rules” you will be inundated with.

Don’t use passive voice.

Show, don’t tell.

Adverbs are bad. Cut them all.

Never head hop.

You might even hear “Don’t use speech tags.” At which point, you should be wondering both “And what is all this?” and “Without speech tags, how does my reader know who’s talking?”

Excellent questions. You’re starting to think instead of letting yourself be told what to do. This means you’re on your way to becoming a better writer.

I’ll be explaining all these “rules” and many more in articles to come. For now, I’ll just point out that they are not rules. No one laid them down from on high to tell writers how to tell their stories. These are “guidelines,” suggestions that have often gotten blown out of proportion with the true reasoning lost as the message is passed from person to person in one giant game of Telephone.

You should know the “rules” of writing, from grammar to what point of view currently sells best in your genre. These will help you craft a better book that has an improved chance of selling well. At the same time, remember that they are guidelines, and once you know them, you can decide when to break them.

When? When it suits your story best.

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