You find them in various places, handing out by authors, editors, and publishers like some tasty tidbits of sage knowledge, but the reality is that, for the most part, writing rules are more guidelines than laws for writing.
You should learn writing rules to know when and how to break them.
There’s a certain logic to some rules. Don’t start with backstory, don’t start with a prologue, don’t slow the writing down with too much description. These type of rules are making easier reading for the reader.
Other rules are based on cliché. For instance, don’t start a story with the weather. This is because of the number of stories already who went in that direction so now it’s a predictable method of starting a story. As you want your story to stand out, you want to avoid predictability and cliché.
If, however, your story includes a family wiped out from a hurricane, then writing about that is pertinent, even essential, to the plot. You would then consider starting the story about the weather.
Find out why the rule was setup in the first place. Rules offer purpose, and reason as to why they are rules in the first place. Take for instance the rules to formatting your manuscript; you need to generally have double spaces, 1-inch margins, in Times New Roman font (or Courier). This is necessary if you’re publishing with a brick-and-mortar publishing company. The double spaced, 1-inch margins allow for editing and notes by an editor/agent. The type of font helps for readability.
If, however,you are self-publishing, the only formatting you need to know is how to format for that specific self-publishing medium. Ebooks would look pretty silly with double spaces. Some allow for various fonts. They have guidelines, so make sure to follow them when publishing.
Don’t get overwhelmed with the rules. If you look up the many lists of ‘writer rules’ suggested by authors, editors, and publishers, you can find yourself a bit overwhelmed by them all. You might also notice the number of books in print already that breaks every one of them. This is why you learn the rules to know when to break them.
Take it step by step and write through the process. You have a story to tell, and focus on finishing before you rein in your creativity with rules.
What are your thoughts? Learn em to break em, or do you feel you should follow them as law?
In the picture, consider if it was a book cover. What titles can you come up with to illustrate what the book is about?