Monday, May 20, 2013

Are Rules Tools?

I'm not a huge fan of writing "rules".  You know, the ones that tell you what you can and can't do as a writer.  I do realize, however, that some of them are good suggestions  put out by people who have been in the industry. So while I never give the rules control of  my manuscript I do listen to what they are, or rather why they came about.

Tools have a specific purpose right?  You wouldn't (I dare say couldn't) put in a screw with a hammer.  At least not in any way that would allow the screw to function like it's supposed to.  So I was interested when I found this post about rules as tools.  When we know what we want to accomplish in our current work, then we can choose the rules, or tools, that will help us achieve it.  the rest of the rules can stay in the toolbox and be forgotten until you're doing a job that might need them.  It was an interesting way of looking at rules and I like the idea of making the "rules" work for me.

Then I found this.  15 things a writer should never do. But these actually make sense.  These aren't really rules, just advice they've heard over and over from different authors over the years, and they actually make sense.  For instance number 15 says never give up. That's a rule I could follow.  Number one says don't assume there's a single path to follow to publication.  If you want to know the rules inbetween you'll have to click over to the article but most of them made sense to me. 

I'd love to know if you agree or disagree with any.

32 comments:

  1. I think the rules are a nice place to start, especially when you're first learning to write. Like you, though, I don't give them too much power, because that can be constraining. As the pirates would say, "They're more like guidelines, really." :)

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    1. Love that line!

      Exactly, they're a great place to start.

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  2. I like the line from the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" film...

    "They're not really rules as much as...guidelines"

    I think that structure rules, for the most part, should be obeyed...if they make sense...but, after that, anything goes.

    It's sort of like running a Dungeon and Dragons game...you have your overarching "main" rules system, but there are always "house" rules, as well.

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    1. You've got to make the game, or rules, work or you and your style.

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  3. Great post, Sara. I guess I'm in the camp that says, "you have to learn the rules before you can break them." As writers, if we've done that, then away we go!! ^_^

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  4. Wonderful post. I'm checking out the links now!

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  5. I'm like you. I read the rules, listen, think about them, try (try ...) to remember them all and then disregard as my gut-instinct tells me to. There will always be rules and guidelines out there. After all, that's how people make a living and gives bloggers something to write about. And it's usually good stuff-- but not the only stuff. Thanks for the links; I'm going to check them out.

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    1. Gut instinct counts for a lot. I think that's the part of writing that makes people say writing can't be taught. You can teach the rules, the grammar, the craft, but it's that instinct that gives it something more.

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  6. Rules = tools! Great insight, Sara! I'll admit to enjoying the "Don'ts" list. BTW, I'm interviewing the author quoted in #10 tomorrow on my blog. She's also in the new WD in the "Breaking In" article. Her debut novel is a great read. ; )

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  7. I don't believe in anything hardfast, but I do believe in trying out advice before I discard it. I've found using rules until I'm good enough to break them is the best path. Those other two posts are great, I think we all need to know that we don't have to be 'perfect' in our writing. perfect is boring anyway :)

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    1. Perfect is overrated. Our differences make things interesting and give us voice in our writing.

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  8. Love this, thanks!

    And it's like what Writing Excuses says: you have to know the rules before you can break them. :)

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  9. Those are good. All of them. At least that's what I think. :-)

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  10. That's a great way to think of rules as tools in your toolbox. Never thought of them that way before.

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  11. 'Don’t ever lower you guard when it comes to the basics: Good spelling, healthy mechanics, sound grammar.'

    Um. There's a grammatical error in that rule ...

    Thanks for the link, babe. Some good stuff.

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    1. Snicker

      Though I can't really say anything. I make more grammar mistakes than anyone.

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  12. I loved that 15 rules article. It's what I always believed.

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  13. I like the idea of thinking of them as tools. Makes perfect sense. I do agree with the 15. T

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  14. Hi S.P. I checked out the list and I don't know if I would catagorize them as "rules" per se, but good sound advice on a clean and healthy mental attitude. I am a rule-breaker at heart, but I took no strong objection to this list. Sounds more like a survival kit for writers so we don't end up in Rest Haven with scheduled meds and a facial tic.
    ~Just Jill

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    1. Survival kit is an excellent description of them.

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  15. Great post Sara.
    The Rules and Tools article points out that "your story is as unique as a snowflake and about as delicate"... So it would be "madness" for anybody to try and apply all the rules all of the time. Rules are guidelines. Nothing is cast in stone. I think the trick is to figure out which rules apply where and when...
    I liked the 15 rules article.

    Writer In Transit

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    1. I liked how it described our stories as unique and delicate as snowflakes. Hopefully they're also as beautiful.

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  16. All great advice! Rules are necessary to learn, but wonderful to break if you do it right and for the right reasons. At least that's my take on it! :D

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  17. Love the rules in the WD post. Can we at least put a curse on the trolls? That's okay, right?

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  18. I agreed with every one! Excellent article!! :)

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  20. The rules from that article seem pretty practical. But I know what you mean about "writing rules." For example, I frequently hear that we should avoid using adverbs. But I see published authors using adverbs all the time in their writing! So I think some rules are made as suggestions or just warnings about not to keep doing something over and over again.

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    1. I'm sure some are warnings and came about because some people abused something. That's why we just need to be aware of them so we can keep it all in moderation.

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  21. Great post and I enjoyed reading the 15 don'ts. I need to work on # 12. I could get out more often. But I'm a home body at heart.

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  22. I still don't like #2 - practicing writing in others' words, or simply copying out your favourite stories and poems, gives more appreciation and a better feel for the flow of good writing...

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