Let’s Break the Rules.

Am I the only writer getting a little sick of being confronted by ‘Rules of Writing’? I don’t mean general grammar, punctuation and spelling rules; I mean the ‘Follow this list and it’ll make you into a good writer’ type of rules.


If you feel inclined to confront me with such a list of rules, please be so good as to add the words ‘In my opinion’. I’m getting dangerously close to ranting here, so I’ll take a deep breath, replenish my coffee cup and start again.

This morning I read a blog lamenting the death of Elmore Leonard. It’s rather sad that the today is the first time I’ve ever heard this writer’s name, and it’s in relation to his passing. May I add my condolences to all the tributes pouring in from various sources.

That said, I don’t agree with the concept of Mr Leonard’s ‘Ten Rules of Writing‘. Would ‘Ten Writing Guidelines’ not have been a better title? Reading a little more about Elmore Leonard’s writing style I can see that these rules worked for him, but that doesn’t mean to say they’d work for me. No prologues? Why? The beginning of my book is a short introduction to the regime that dominates the country in which Dory’s Avengers is set, and takes place two decades before the main action. Should it have been a mini chapter one?

Nope. Doesn’t work for me. Prologue it is then. As a matter of interest, in my opinion epilogues don’t work. In my opinion, I’d rather the author wrote a sequel or left the story to end at its end!

I would not class this as a rule of writing. It’s a rule of how I write, there’s a big difference.

Now, let’s write some dialogue. John and Jane are a married couple. John has been having an extra marital affair with Jane’s sister.

‘You’ve done what?’ said Jane angrily. Oh no, sorry, no adverbs with said. Try again Alison.

‘You’ve done what?’ yelled Jane. Oops, only ‘said’ allowed for dialogue. Try again.

‘You’ve done what?’ said Jane.

‘I’ve fallen for your sister,’ replied…sorry… said John.

‘You bastard,’ said Jane. My Jane would have spat these words, but that’s apparently not allowed.

‘I know, I’m so sorry,’ said John.

‘Where does that leave us?’ said Jane (‘asked Jane miserably’ would sound so much better in my opinion, but rules are rules!).

‘I’m leaving you,’ said John. Cheerfully? Unemotionally? Contritely? Ah, sorry, you’ll never know.

I’m not writing any more of this dialogue; it’s boring me.

I do not wish to sound as though I’m mocking the deceased, I am not, and I apologise if that’s the impression I’ve given. I do, however, wish people would stop passing their own personal writing styles off as rules. I also wish others would stop slavishly following those rules. If you can’t develop your own unique writing style, please don’t bother.

By the way, I wholeheartedly agree with cutting out the parts readers are likely to skip.

‘Good advice, Mr Leonard. May you rest in peace,’ I said, sincerely!


3 thoughts on “Let’s Break the Rules.

  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I use adverbs plus lots of stage direction. sucha as wiht a flourish of her hands ! LOl great post! Im joining hte rulebreakers!

  2. It might be good to understand the ‘rules’ before you go trying to argue against them or break them. Just sayin’.

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