writers tips / writing

Writer’s Tip #75: Break the Rules

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

This tip is from Robert Masello, award-winning journalist, television writer, and bestselling author of many novels and nonfiction books  like the Medusa Amulet and Vigil. It’s #102 in his Kindle ebook,  Robert’s Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Should Know (Writers Digest Books 2011). That’s right. He’s showing not telling. We writers understand that approach.

Here’s what he says:

Rule 102. Break the Rules. The cover of the book says 101 Rules—and that’s why I’m writing 102. Just to prove that rules are made for breaking. For example, for every writer who writes in the morning, there’s one who writes only at night. For every writer who plows ahead, never looking back, there’s one who agonizes over every word and cannot go forward without polishing every syllable that has come before. For every writer who works from an elaborate outline, there’s one who flies by the seat of his pants.

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

37 thoughts on “Writer’s Tip #75: Break the Rules

  1. Pingback: Best Fiction and Writing Blogs | M.C. Tuggle, Writer

  2. I’m a big believer that writing rules are only guidelines, and that your voice is mostly a matter of which rules you decide to follow and how much you follow them.


  3. I fall somewhere in the middle. I do a story summary, a summary for each scene I write, and character sheets, but all details are by the seat of my pants. I find I do my best writing started at about 4pm. I wonder if that has anything to do with all those years of doing homework. As I write, I look up the spelling of words, the actual means of words, and synonyms for words. As for how each sentence would be better all the way around, I leave that for future drafts.


  4. I learn so much from your ‘Writing Tips’ section. It’s good to know that there really isn’t any “Correct” way to write. I think at the end of the day, it’s more about writing from your heart. – But hey, what do I know?! I’m learning everyday!
    Thanks for sharing!


  5. I agree. It’s a matter of being comfortable with your own methods and writing style, no matter what anyone else says. Yes, I know the rules (some of them anyway) and I still do my own thing. Sometimes I change the way I do it – again, if I want to. At the end of the day, when your book is out there, as long as it is readable, makes sense and follows an interesting story line, will the reader stop to wonder if the author used a story-board or took several years to write it or if it was written in the middle of the night? I’m sure those questions have never come to my mind when I’ve been reading a book.


    • I completely agree. There are rules like, “Don’t put dialogue in regional patois too long” which I’ve seen authors follow and effectively break. It’s all in how we as a writer deliver on the book’s promise.


  6. sometimes I make rules just to be able to break them.
    I do find it important to read my poems and stories aloud. There is something about hearing rather than seeing that send the whole thing through a different pathway in the brain allowing us to perceive things differently.


  7. The more comfortable we become with writing, the more comfortable we get with breaking the rules. As many writers say, we need to know what the rules are in order to break them. 🙂


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