Principles, Not Rules!

Publish date:

Remember the movie Adaptation? (Second mention of that movie in a week! I know!) There is a scene where two brothers are sitting around, talking about the craft and business of screenwriting. One brother is discussing screenwriting workshops he recently attended and singing their praises. The other brother warns against workshops and instructors, saying that anyone who says they possess all the rules of writing is lying, because "there are no rules."
The first brother counters, "Not rules, Charles. Principles. A rules says 'you must do it this way.' A principle says 'this way works, and has worked since the beginning of time.'"

Well that's what you have to keep in mind when reading my blog or others like mine. I, for one, speak in terms of principles, not rules. The thing is: Since there truly are no rules of writing, you can probably find a contradicting opinion to a lot of writing instruction, mine or others. You can't get every agent to agree on anything.

At past writers' conferences, I've heard agents say things such as:

1. "Oh, I will open unsolicited e-mail attachments."
Sending them is generally a big no-no.

And the mind-blowing:

2. "I wouldn't say you have to have the whole novel finished before querying."
Are you kidding? Can't we agree on anything???

Agents all have their little weird quirks that go against general principle. Some wants things this way. Others like to see this and that. You just have to look for these weird quirks in their submission instructions.
I am not an agent. I don't factor in a single agent's strange likes and weird quirks. I speak to you from having interviewed and met many, many agents and hearing their general advice and instructions for submitting. Just keep that in mind...

Image placeholder title

"Wow them in the end, and you've got a hit."


Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Relying on Perfect Conditions to Write

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 writers make is relying on perfect conditions to write.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Contest Deadline Announcement and a Flash Fiction Challenge

This week, we’re excited to announce the deadline for our Self-Published Book Awards, the guidelines for the upcoming Flash Fiction Challenge, and more!


For the Travel and Nature Writer: Keeping Your Mind Sharp and Words Insightful

Dr. Caitlin O'Connell shares some insight for travel and nature writers, including how travel helps keep your mind sharp and words insightful, whether you're writing fiction, nonfiction, sports, politics, or something else entirely.


Olga Grushin: The No Man's Land Between Genres

Award-winning author Olga Grushin discusses what it meant to wade into a new genre and how she put her spin on the fairy tale retelling.

Poetic Forms

Rannaigecht Mor Gairit: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the rannaigecht mor gairit, a variant form of the rannaigecht.


The Writer, The Inner Critic, & The Slacker

Author and writing professor Alexander Weinstein explains the three parts of a writer's psyche, how they can work against the writer, and how to utilize them for success.


Todd Stottlemyre: On Mixing and Bending Genres

Author Todd Stottlemyre explains how he combined fiction and nonfiction in his latest book and what it meant as a writer to share his personal experiences.


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Take a Trip

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character take a trip somewhere.


Making the Switch from Romance to Women’s Fiction

In this article, author Jennifer Probst explains the differences between romance and women's fiction, the importance of both, and how you can make the genre switch.