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So I frequently blog and vlog about writing rules. And writing tips and dos and don’ts. And I say things like don’t edit while you’re first drafting and prologues are frequently unnecessary and avoid backstory on your first page.
But here’s the truth with any and all writing tips, dos and don’ts: there are almost always exceptions.
I try to say this from time to time, because for every writing rule, there’s an example of the opposite that worked. For every prologue that could be tossed is a prologue that is friggin’ amazing—for every writer who blazes through their first draft without looking back is a writer who edits while first drafting and finishes with a smile. For every “best not to do this” there is an example of that very thing working beautifully.
The main writing rule I can think of without an exception is writers must read. There are probably (definitely) others. But by and large, most writing rules have exceptions and that’s okay.
The only thing with exceptions is it is much, much harder to pull an exception off successfully. Impossible? Absolutely not. But way more difficult, yeah.
The reason there are rules and tips to begin with is because those rules show methods that make things easier. That generally work, that make the whole writing process more simple if you follow them. They’re mean to be guidelines to help you, rather than laws that must absolutely 100% be adhered to.
For example, many writer types and publishing people will advise you not to start your book with a character waking up. I’ve probably even said this myself. It’s overdone, and often leads to characters dictating every part of their day before the exciting thing happens and yeah, oftentimes it doesn’t work.
But spoiler: Beyond the Red starts with a character waking up. From the first paragraph. And I wrote it knowing full well that characters waking up in an opening are super overdone, so I did my best to try to do it differently. And I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way in the final, published version, but it’s worked so far.
Would it have been easier to start elsewhere? Maybe. But that was where the story started in my mind, and so I went with it. It was an exception, even though I still actively try to avoid writing openings with characters waking up.
Writer types and publishing people will advise you not to write in second person. Not because it’s a horrible POV, but because it’s super, ridiculously tough to pull off well and a lot of readers don’t like it. But guess what? Books like Half Bad by Sally Green start with a second person section and has several chapters in second person. And not everyone will necessarily agree with me, but I thought it worked super well.
I’m not trying to say that I’m special or Sally Green is special—I’m just saying exceptions do happen. And sometimes, learning the writing rules really well means that you know how to bend them and occasionally even break them. And it means that you know how to do it in a way that works. Maybe.
Ultimately, you’re making things harder for yourself when you break writing rules. But if you manage to pull it off, sometimes the result can be really awesome.
So if you ever see a writing rule that just really doesn’t resonate with you, it’s okay. There are exceptions. Maybe this is one of them.
What do you think? Have you come across any good exceptions to a writing rule?
Writer @Ava_Jae says there are almost always exceptions to every writing rule. What do you think? (Click to tweet)
Have you come across any good exceptions to a writing rule? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)