Writing group

On Writing Advice, or Why the rules don’t exist

If I asked you to write down ten pieces of writing advice, you’d be able to finish that list in a matter of minutes.

Every writer has looked up some sort of writing advice during their journey. Perhaps multiple times. But there is an inherent problem with writing advice that needs addressing.

I don’t know how, and I don’t know why. But somewhere along the line, ‘writing advice,’ has become synonymous with ‘writing rules.’

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some rules for writing. These are little to do with your content though, and more to do with such things like spelling and grammar. But then again, even these are broken on occasion.

When it comes to writing advice however, I find it best to think of these more as guidelines. The problem is, they are phrased as rules, often starting with ‘never,’ or ‘always.’

I often wondered why these popular pieces of writing advice are framed in such as way. I guess it’s because if you call them guidelines, writers may ignore them or shrug them off. ‘They’re only suggestions after all.’

Calling them rules however, has the opposite effect. Writers may be too focused on following these rules, which can hinder their progress and their creativity. And that is extremely dangerous. All writing advice is helpful. But the way it is phrased and presented is not.

When following any type of writing advice, instead of blindly following it, step back and think.

‘Never use adverbs,’ for example. Instead of never using adverbs, you should stop and think about whether or not the adverb is necessary in that particular moment. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not.

Every piece of writing advice comes from somewhere, has some merit, I’m not denying that. But no matter what advice it is, remember that it is just a guideline. A suggestion. Your job as a writer is to figure out whether or not that writing advice is going to help you.

Every writer is different. We all have our own ideas, our own styles, our own strengths and weaknesses. What helps one writer, will not help another. These ‘rules,’ shouldn’t be blindly followed. You should follow only what will benefit you and your story.

Writers can and should bend, twist, and shape the rules when they need to, in order to fit within their story. Within reason of course. Take advice at face value. Use what fits in with your narrative, your style and your personality.

The first rule of writing is there are no rules of writing. So don’t follow the rules, make them work for you.

Good thoughts and happy writing

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