Reflecting on Rules

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So this is a time of reflection. I’m in a restaurant—reflection makes me hungry.

A few blogs ago—I used to measure time in hours and minutes, but now I apparently do it by blogs. It’s sad, really.

Plus, I’m always late for things.

I digress, but for the record, the blog thing has sort of taken on a fungal role in my life. But without the vitamin D—that one was for all the farmers and nutritionists in the audience.

Now my digression has digressed.


Where was I? Oh yeah…

A few blogs ago, I went off on how much I hated the “rules.” That was a little bit of an exaggeration. Some of my best friends are rules. Okay, they’re not, but I flirt with them at parties.

YA Author Tom Hoover Reflects on the Rules of WritingMy beef, my issue, the thing that wrinkles my shorts when it comes to rules is slavish obedience to them. Anything that you HAVE to do ALL the time can’t be good. Or healthy.

Of such stuff cults are born.

But rules have an important purpose in writing—they are the skeleton, the backbone, the science of writing if you will. Science is important. Without it, we’d be cowering in caves, afraid the sun will kill us.

So when you wake up to a beautiful tomorrow, remember to tip your science. Or your rules.

But science by itself is just this unhappy, nerdy thing that says the world is nothing but backbones. But it’s not. It’s also fresh smelling hair, gorgeous eyes, and a smile of promise. What I like to call the art in the science.

That’s what writing should be—rhythm and art and promise and just enough science so the whole thing doesn’t blow up in your face.

Good writing knows when to follow the rules and when to break them. When to write a sentence without a subject and object. When to know the words in the dictionary aren’t enough and you need to create a few of your own … and trust that your context will communicate them as clearly as if they were “real words.”

It’s knowing that right and wrong aren’t about the rules, but about the rhythm and flow of the story.

All that to say, the rules are your friends, so hang out with them. But know when to peel off and sweet-talk the cute guy or girl you spy across the restaurant.

That’s when you find the magic.

And remember, it’s not about following the rules or breaking them—it’s about if the story touches you.

Everything else is just so many words.

Now excuse me while I finish my mussels and wine.

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