Friday, December 8, 2017

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 42: Know (and Follow) the Rules.

Many, many of the “lies” addressed in these parts have to do with the “rules” passed along to aspiring writers at conferences and workshops, in books and articles, by critique groups and manuscript readers.
Most of the “rules” are based, in some part, on reality. But seldom are they universal enough in application to even qualify as “rules.” “Advice” or “considerations” would make more apt descriptions.
The simple fact is, if you want to write, and write well, you have to figure it out for yourself. No one else can guide the pencil or stroke the keyboard or tell you how to tell your story.
That’s not to say you should ignore the “rules” you hear. Neither should you accept them unconsidered or untested. Try that, and you’ll end up hopelessly confused, staring at a blank screen or sheet of paper wondering how to proceed and continually contradicting yourself as one “rule” clashes with another.
I think the best advice concerning following the “rules” is that offered by W. Somerset Maugham: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”


  1. Those three rules were penned by W. Somerset Maughan. Another of his quotes is, "If you can tell stories,create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn't matter a damn how you write."

    That said, I agree that some consideration should be given to the "rules" for those who attempt to write in the era in which they were born. The rules a century ago are not the same as today.

  2. Three very good rules to follow! :-)