Skip to main content
Publish date:

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.

Image placeholder title

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.

Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson: On the Power of Creative Teamwork

Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson: On the Power of Creative Teamwork

Authors Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson discuss the benefits of working as co-authors and the process of writing the newest Presidential Agent novel, Rogue Asset.

5 Tips for Writing About Big Historical Events in Fiction

5 Tips for Writing About Big Historical Events in Fiction

Novelist Anna Stuart shares her top five tips for writing about big historical events in fiction so that the story stays front and center...and engaging.

Mantel vs. Mantle (Grammar Rules)

Mantel vs. Mantle (Grammar Rules)

This post looks at the differences between mantel and mantle with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Agent Advice

Agent Advice: Analieze Cervantes of The Harvey Klinger Literary Agency

Agent Advice (this installment featuring Analieze Cervantes of The Harvey Klinger Literary Agency) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: 4 WDU Courses, an Upcoming Webinar, Submission Deadline for Your Favorite Writing Websites, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce 4 WDU courses, an upcoming webinar on creating an author website, and more!

How To Find the Right Professional Editor for Your Writing

How To Find the Right Professional Editor for Your Writing

It's not enough to know when your manuscript is ready for a professional edit—it's knowing who is the right fit to do the editing. Here, Tiffany Yates Martin discusses how to find the right professional editor for your writing.

From Script

Understanding the Writer and Agent Relationship (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, read an intimate interview with Verve Literary Agent and Partner David Boxerbaum about the state of the spec market, the relationship between a writer and agent, and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is ending your story too soon.

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes with Magic

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes With Magic

In this post, trained fighter and author Carla Hoch explores the process of writing fight scenes with magic—how to make the unbelievable believable, how limitations bring us closer to our characters, and more.