There are times when following writing rules, or generally accepted guidelines as I prefer to call them, is helpful. But sometimes we’re better off not following them.
When Not to Follow Generally Accepted Guidelines
When writing a rough draft ~ A first draft is intended to be fun. We can deny our internal editor admittance and grant our creative spirit free rein. This is not the time to be obsessed about adverbs or worry about a split infinitive. The goal is to get the story on the page. There will be plenty of time for editing later.
When exploring our voices ~ Freedom is key when we’re seeking to discover our voices. Rigid adherence to rules could thwart our attempts to infuse our stories with our unique styles. We need to feel free to experiment.
When working through writer’s block ~ When words aren’t coming and have to be tweezed out one by one, worrying about our output would be counterproductive. At such times, our primary concern is producing words, any words. Rewarding ourselves for progress is key. Rules can wait.
When doing so serves our stories ~ While rules or guidelines serve us most of the time, on occasion we’re better off making exceptions for the sake of our stories. For example, we’ve heard the best dialogue tags are said and asked. However, I have a young character who, when shocked by the unexpected response of an adult she fears, squeaks a line of dialogue. The unusual word choice achieves just the effect I was after. When we know the guidelines and follow them the majority of the time, choosing not to, if done intentionally and rarely, can enhance our stories.
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When do you choose to not to follow the generally accepted guidelines?
Has ignoring the guidelines helped you write a first draft or get through writer’s block?