Stupid Writing Rules You Should Definitely Ignore

By on July 28, 2017
Stupid Writing Rules You Should Definitely Ignore - Writer's

As writers, should we choose to look for it, we can find advice about almost every aspect of our craft.

From how to develop your characters to plotting your plot. From how to approach publishers, to how to make a success from DIY publishing - there are literally thousands upon thousands of pieces of advice out there.

Which is great.

There is a tiny problem, however. Not all of it agrees.

Of course, as with anyone that has had an opinion on anything ever, there will always be someone who feels the exact opposite way. But when it comes to writing we are often bombarded with so many rules, so many do’s and don’ts that it can not only feel overwhelming, but can actually have a negative impact on the quality of our writing, and how much we enjoy doing it too.

There are lots of so called ‘writing rules’ that seem to be bandied about quite often. Rules which don’t necessarily make any sense. Here are just some of them that we think should definitely be taken with a pinch of salt.

1. Don’t reference anything contemporary otherwise, your book will go out of fashion

Cultural references can actually be helpful in creating your world, grounding the reader and helping them to visualise and relate to your story. Your book won’t suddenly become dated because you’ve mentioned an iPhone or a certain model of car or a song that is currently popular. If you think contemporary references add to your story then use them

2. Don’t start by describing the weather

OK so opening with ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ can seem a little cliched, but if the weather is important to set the tone and the mood of your story, don’t shy away from including it in your opening lines. If you can describe the weather in an arresting and unusual way, this can capture your reader's attention from the outset and pull them into the story.

3. Always start in the middle of some action

Many excellent books don’t start in the middle of a scene. Some begin by describing a character or details of the world the book is set in. Of course, action doesn’t necessarily mean ‘in the middle of a raging intergalactic battle.’ But there are other ways to begin your story, and if they feel right to you, just go with it.

4. Don’t make the opening scenes too dark or depressing

Some pieces of advice appear to say that starting your book on a low point will depress and put off your readers. This is nonsense. Every book is different and opening yours where the protagonist is about to do something dreadful, or something dreadful is happening to them, can actually be incredibly powerful.

5. Never use sentence fragments - your readers won’t understand

People don’t speak in full, proper sentences all the time do they? Nor do they have perfect English. If you want your character's dialogue to be believable, writing in sentence fragments, or having them stutter or trail off, can be an effective way of doing so.

6. Don’t read while you're writing

Some advice claims that reading books while you are writing will either put you off, or it will mean you immediately copy that writers style. This is ridiculous! Reading is a fantastic way of inspiring writers and helping us to learn and grow.

7. Always write in the present tense

Some pieces of advice even baulk at the idea of using the word ‘was’. While writing in the present tense does bring immediacy to a book, if you choose to write in the past tense, or have instances where you do, it doesn’t mean that your book won’t be a success.

8. Always have a happy ending

Believe it or not, readers don’t need to have a happy ending to enjoy a book. If you feel your book should end in a way that your protagonist doesn’t get what they want, or they do but at such significant cost it barely seems worth it, this can be just as effective. It may leave the reader feeling shocked and upset - but not cheated, and that’s the most important thing.

Writing advice is great, and can really inspire writers and help them to improve. However, if a rule doesn’t feel right to you there is no need to take it as gospel. Sometimes breaking the rules is what it’s all about after all!

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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