Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Breaking Your Own Rules

We all know there are a million "rules" for writing, and that not everyone follows the same rules. I think it's pretty awesome, actually, that there is no one way to write.

Most of us, after a while, decide on what rules work for us. These may change over time; a writing rule is only useful as long as it is helping you achieve your writing goals.

One of my writing rules is that I'm not allowed to go back and edit what I've written until the first draft is finished. This is a rule I had to adopt during my first NaNoWriMo, and I've never looked back. I've found that without enforcing this rule, I don't finish my first drafts. (YMMV, obviously)

A few weeks ago I wrote about my experience getting my groove back by participating in #AHundredOrDie on Twitter. I was having a great time, plugging along a little bit every day, until... I wasn't.

It took a lot of pondering, but I eventually realized my frustration was because of a structural mistake in my book: there was way too much time between the reveal of the twist and the characters acting upon it. I couldn't move forward without fixing this big mistake, so I broke my own rule and edited to get the scenes in the right order.

Progress restored! I was able to move forward. And that's the plan: continue moving towards The End without stopping to edit. Editing was helpful in the moment, but it was only an exception to the rule. Full steam ahead!

Which of your writing rules have you had to break, and why? 


  1. Oh, writing rules...yeah, I only want those so I can break 'em. Biggest one--my 2000K-a-day-or-bust rule. During NaNo and Camp NaNo, I always try to get 2000 six to seven days a week. But I sometimes find that I do better with 2000 two days in a row, 500 on the third day and 3000 on the fourth, followed by 2000 for two more days and then a day off of writing completely. On my rest day I tend to go out to the river or the lake and kayak a little bit and sit the rest of the time, just reflecting. That puts me in a good spot to start the next week's writing.

  2. That's a rule I unconsciously adopted. I used to go and edit before starting a new scene and it made writing so slow. Now, I just focus on getting the first draft done then worry about making it pretty.

    1. Yep. I too have to remind myself that I'll make it better later. Editing is like a reward for finishing a draft because I like editing so much more.

  3. I should add that breaking my 2K rule in November makes me nervous whenever I do it. Must...get...50K. Can't...lose...
    Sometimes you gotta break the rules anyway.

  4. Yes, that's a rule I have as well. No editing the first draft and only writing. But that's always something I've done. But, someone recently told me about to write and just go back and review what you wrote, expanding on the important parts. That also helps increase the story length. But if its something that involves changing multiple chapters, I'll leave it be.

    I also broke the writing rule of writing every day. If I'm too tired, I'll let it be. And the next day, I'd feel guilty so the writing count would be so much higher. :")


  5. I have the same rule and have broken it for the same reason. It's hard to keep going when the glaring plot mistake is bleeding into the rest of the story.

    I think my biggest rule is to not start my first draft until the characters are having conversations in my head. It certainly helps with voice from the jump of my story, but it occasionally keeps me from beginning at all. I broke this rule during the onset of my last manuscript, having realized that I couldn't possibly wait any longer and that writing from the character's POV could draw out their voices faster, even if that meant I had to revise earlier chapters. And though I hate revision, it was necessary. Nothing is set in stone until it's published.


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