When Authors Break the “Rules”

I think I’ve actually got a handle on most of the rules of writing. I’m not talking about punctuation, grammar, plot, character building, or anything in that venue.  What I am talking about are the finer polishing points that turn my pages from talking to singing.

My latest editing discovery concerned “echoing headwords” for lack of a better term coined by the writing website Immerse or Die. In other words, repeating consecutive sentences with the same first word or more than one paragraph per page doing the same.


Spring has been a busy time for me and I have not done as much reading, writing, and editing as I should have. Therefore, now that I feel like I’ve got this whole “rule” thing clear in my head, I’ve decided to sit down re-read one of my favorite books. After all, isn’t that a piece of advice you see all over author blogs? Good writers read a lot. This re-reading would of course be a different experience, because I have new eyes.

Good Writers Read

I am not going to name the book or the author, and I am not offering this as a form of criticism. It is simply a moment when you throw your hands up and roll your eyes and say, “Just when I thought it was safe to read again.”

I lounged back in my favorite recliner and opened the book. Alas, everything that I have learned about “echoing headwords,” overuse of “to be,” and naming too many people and places in the first chapter, was completely ignored by the author.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Probably something like, “Well you know, once an author is an established thoroughbred, s/he can break all the rules they want to break.” Cough…gag

Did I happen to mention that this great book (and a major seller) was the author’s first book?

I put the book down and went for another one from my trusted overcrowded shelves. Another first book from another famous author that flaunted all of the rules again!


What’s a little-ole-self-pubbing-indie to do?

Well…perhaps I should offer those rule breakers some admiration.

Thus far, applying some of these tried and true methods has improved the quality of my writing, and I am quite happy and contented with the results. If someone else wants to throw some rules out the window…let them. I have no problems with another author nestled in their “comfy zone,” as long as their formula is working well for them and their readers.

Despite my confusion, I’ll maintain a “live and let live” attitude.

How do you feel about those who not only break a few rules, but do it well?

***Visit Ernesto San Giacomo’s Amazon Author Page and check out a short story for your e-reader today! Choose one or all – Night Flights – Stasis – Ragged Souls – Gematria²***


13 thoughts on “When Authors Break the “Rules”

  1. I wrote a review on Brace New World that picked out all the things the author rules say not to do. Yet, a fabulous book and one of the most important and prescient science fiction stories of the 20th century.

    Thing is, you need to know the rules before you can break them, when you’re confident it’s the right time to do so.


    • Hi Colin
      In English or in French? The usage of of ‘that’ and ‘the’ is much more frequent in romance languages. Perhaps the translator didn’t do a good enough job?
      Never read ‘The Plague’ but I have read ‘The Stranger’ Still have my French copy on my shelves:-)
      Monsieur Camus is always great.


  2. I don’t mind authors breaking the rules if the story is good and their rule-breaking isn’t taking away from my enjoyment of reading. If their rule-breaking throws me out of the story, then it’s not done well.

    Rules are made to be broken simply because they weren’t always and always won’t be rules. Rules change from one century to the next.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This says it all for me (quoting you): [Breaking the rules] can’t be done simply for the sake of thumbing one’s nose at rules.

    IMHO, *Everything* about the best writing is intentional, designed in congruence with the overall goals of the piece.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s