Growing up I followed pretty much every rule to the book. Coloring inside the lines. Not talking up during class. And so on and so forth. But secretly I wished I could be like the “cool” kids and not care if I broke the rules or not. The kids that looked like they were having so much fun, threw caution to the wind, and didn’t care if they got yelled at for coloring outside the lines.
Yep, I so wanted to be them.
Heck, I still want to be them.
Now, that I’m pursuing a writing career, I’m finding the writer’s world is filled with rule-breakers. I’m not meaning people that break every rule in the book. But as writers we hear tons of advice about what you “should” do here. Like “show don’t tell.” Or what you can do here, “don’t use too many adjectives.”
And then we hear advice like, “you can do anything as long as you do it well.”
Okay, good advice. But what do you follow? And when do you color outside the lines?
I’ve started reading two good books lately that started slow, because they were all “tell” to me. Granted it was done in a way that was interesting.
But these were by established authors, and if it was their first book could they have gotten away with a slow start that told too much and didn’t show it?
I don’t know. Maybe if they did it well enough in at least one agent and one editor’s eyes.
Clearly, I have no answers and am only posing questions. But sometimes when I’m reading books and come across clearly broken writing rules (or should I call them “writing guidelines,” since there apparently aren’t writing “rules”) everyone seems to be telling us, I want to throw up my hands and scream, “I just don’t get it.”
And then I want to start breaking all the rules like these other authors, and then when it doesn’t work out, I just get mad.
So maybe you all can help. When do you think it’s okay to break writing rules? After you’ve sold one book and have more leverage to break rules? Or do you never listen to rules.You tell me. Here's my first online poll!
--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent