Breaking the Rules

A lot of blogs will try to tell you how to write. They’ll give you rules like “only use one exclamation point per novel” or “only ever use said.” Sometimes, you’re not completely comfortable following these rules. You think your story needs something else, and you want to break the rule. After all, shouldn’t there be no rules in art? Shouldn’t you be allowed to do whatever you want?

And you are allowed to do whatever you want. However, you have to learn the rules before you start to break them. You need to learn the basics before you can start playing with those conventions. Picasso and Dali didn’t start their carers making weird, avant-garde paintings; first, they learned form and value and portraiture. Once they’d mastered those, they could move on to their weird experimental stuff.

This same principle applies to writing. When a writing blog advises you to do something, it assumes you are a novice, and you are here looking for help. So it sets up the groundwork for you. It shows you what, for the most part, is the best path. Once you’ve learned this path, then you can deviate from it.

So I know you’re impatient. I know you want to start trying your weird stuff right now. And feel free to. But also remember that you need to hone your basic skills if you want to become advanced. You need to know the ins and outs of something before you can manipulate it for yourself.

Always experiment. Always be creative. But do not doubt the wisdom that comes with learning how to lay the groundwork.

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