Tag Archives: writing rules

Breaking The Rules of Writing

9 Aug

003Welcome back and Happy Friday!

I’ve been dragging mentally and emotionally this week. Nothing I do pleases me, and doubts will always be with me regarding my abilities as a writer.  I’m pretty sure most of you reading this can relate.

Anyway, let’s start with a quote and then we’ll carry on.


Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.
Thomas A. Edison

I think old Thomas was onto something.

Listen, I can give you all the advice and tips you could ever need, but one thing is irrefutable:  if you don’t work at your craft and improve your writing, then don’t expect Fame and Fortune to come knocking soon.

Great writers break rules all the time, but they seem to have an innate sense of when to break rules for the benefit of the story they are telling or the article they are writing.


From Kurt Vonnegut, these tips to consider:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.


The Juniper Prize For Poetry is accepting submissions until the end of September. You can find the submission guidelines here.


random pictures March 2012 008

Here you go…let your imagination loose and see where it takes you.


I know, this is short, but I guess you could say I just broke my own rule.  Get outside and enjoy one of the last summer weekends.  You deserve it.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”