Rules Are More Like Guidelines

Lucy 5

All of our lives we are told, “No. You can’t do this. You have to do that. That’s not allowed. You must follow the rules.”

When I first started writing, I joined a critique group.  Their input was priceless and it lead to publication. Since then I have written and published five books. I’ve learned  my craft through trial and error, following advise from more experienced writers, and learning the rules.

Writing has a Holy Trinity of its own:  Point of View, Internalization, and Sense of Place. Every writer is told to include these three points in each scene.  As a beginning writer I got so caught up in making sure I had these attitudes in every chapter, I forgot to write.

Of course I realize there are basic guidelines that help  beginners become more professional and organized. By learning colors and textures, an artist creates more breathtaking drawings.  By taking lessons and learning the mechanics of certain strokes,  a swimmer can slice through the water in record time. All professions and professionals learn the rules and dedicate hours and hours of practice following said rules.

Ok, I get it.  By learning and following the Holy Trinity of Writing, a story goes from flat to 3-D.


I can’t help but wonder, who made up these rules?  Did Shakespeare,  Dickens, Hemingway, and Faulkner sit around one night and decide: hook the reader with the first sentence, a writer must have an agent,  writers can have only 10 minutes to pitch their books, etc, etc, etc..   Of course not.  In fact, Dickens self-published!

Remember the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean? In this movie the Pirates Code played an important part.  But I loved Barbossa’s explanation when he said, “And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.

My point is this:  There is no right or wrong way to write!

True, there are more productive ways.  However:

Creativity is a free spirit. She loves to run. She doesn’t want or need any stinkin’ rules!

So, am I telling beginning writers not follow the rules?


By all means, learn all the rules. Become efficient in using them. Hone your craft. Know the rules inside and out. Get published.  Then . . .

Break them!

2 thoughts on “Rules Are More Like Guidelines

  1. I like “Creativity is a free spirit. She loves to run.” Rules can be a harness that slows “her” down. I know. I’ve been harnessed by rules plenty. Let your creativity flow, THEN go back and see if you’ve followed the rules–or, decide not to! Thanks, Ruthie!

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