Mistake 6: Not Breaking Rules

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit

Why this is a mistake: It is a mistake to break a rule, and it’s not a mistake. You’re not the exception to the rule until you know the rule and have a reason to break the rule. Thus my three steps of rule breaking, which I’ll list in the solution. But first, why would you want to break a rule? Because, if you’re like everyone else, you’ll never stand out. If you’ve been trying to get published, in any format, sooner or later you’re going to run into the classic rejection of: “We want something like X, but not X.” Try to make something new from proven strategies and techniques. Put your own unique spin and stamp on things that have worked.

The solution: There are three steps to rule breaking. The first is learn the rules. If you break a rule because you don’t know it’s a rule, that’s simply called, putting it nicely, not being very smart. It means you haven’t bothered to do the basic homework of learning
the craft.

The second step is to have a very good reason for breaking the rule. Don’t just break the rule because you have nothing better to do. Look at the rules, study them. Then figure out why you would want to do things differently.

Third, and most important, accept the consequences of breaking the rule. If it works, great. But most likely, it won’t work. Then you have to pick up the pieces and start over again.

You have to eventually break rules to stand out from the crowd and be successful in the world of publishing. You have to be unique. If you examine the three steps, they are a career arc: learning the rules, which is learning the craft. Having a reason to break the rule, which is making
a decision as an artist. Accepting responsibility, which is making a career decision.

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