The Rules

A Resident of the Butterfly Pavillion in Westminster, Colorado. They have a million of 'em!
A Resident of the Butterfly Pavillion in Westminster, Colorado. They have a million of ’em!*

A popular quote amongst writers goes something like this: “There are two rules to writing a novel. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are.” It is always attributed to somebody who should know, but as I don’t have it exactly anyway, I’m leaving that blank. It could be apocryphal anyway, for all I know. My point being that statements like that are simply false.

As far as how you write, when and where, the tools you use, whether you’re sober or caffeinated or drunk or hungover, sure, no rules. Whatever works for you is fine. But, in the end, you need a product that will pay for your computer, paper, coffee, Jack Daniels, or whatever. And if you want to do that, yes, there are rules.

I have a whole darned PowerPoint about the rules, but I won’t burden you with all of that. The rules are quite simple, based upon rule number one: Only write stuff you like to read!

If you write stuff you like to read, you have some distinct advantages. You know your audience (people like you,) you know your subject matter, you know the conventions of the genre, and you know where you can break the rules and get away with it.

The rest of the rules you should have learned in High School English class. Seriously, you should have. And, you can never break those High School English rules in a query, cover letter, any marketing materials, or at any time other than when you are breaking them for the sake of art. Beyond that, read a lot, write a lot, get critiqued, learn how to promote your work, and don’t stop. Those are the rules for writing anything.

You must know the rules like a professional in order to break them like an artist. — Pablo Picasso



*Learn more about the Butterfly Pavilion by clicking here.