On Bending (and Breaking) Writing Rules

Photo credit: Hernán Piñera on Flickr
So given that I've been running this writing blog for close to five years now (whoa), I've written rather frequently about various writing rules. Where to start a story, for example, or things you should/shouldn't do while first drafting, or when and how to tackle revisions. I try to remember to mention from time to time that writing strategies and tips only work when they work for you, and that writing rules aren't completely set in stone, and that writing is subjective, etc., etc., etc.

So when I saw this tweet from Pantomime author Laura Lam, recently, it occurred to me I hadn't really talked about rule breaking in regards to writing, recently.
So fun fact, Beyond the Red also starts with one of my MCs waking up. Granted, he wakes with a knife to his throat and a phaser pressed to his head, so it's not a typical this is my morning routine wake up, but it starts with waking up nevertheless. I didn't make that decision because I didn't know about the rule of not starting a book with a protagonist waking up—I knew about it and went ahead with this opening anyway because that is, legitimately, where the story starts, and it's just before the inciting incident.

In fact, I don't think I would've been able to pull off that opening if I hadn't known the don't start with waking up rule and why it was a rule to begin with. Because if I hadn't understood why it was in place, I wouldn't have known how to work around it.

And that, right there, is the key. Bending or breaking writing rules successfully depends entirely on understanding the rule and why it's there to begin with.

This is why, even if you plan to break or bend the writing rules, it's still important to learn about them. This is why throwing the rules out entirely without understanding them first rarely works.

All writing rules are in place for a reason and your job, as a writer, is to learn and think about them seriously before deciding whether or not you'll apply them to your own work.

Have you ever (purposefully) bent or broken any writing rules?

Twitter-sized bites: 
"Breaking writing rules successfully depends entirely on understanding the rule and why it's there." (Click to tweet)  
Is it okay to bend or break writing rules? @Ava_Jae weighs in with her thoughts. #writetip (Click to tweet)

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