Rule Breaking | Rejection Pile

How do you feel about rules on writing? I know. I used to feel the same way. Surely to create art requires freedom – not the straightjacket of rules? The greats have put no store by rules, and in breaking the rules, they were able to create works of art that have survived them and are here today for us to delight in. This I believe still. However…

rules-1In order to break rules, it is best to know first what rules we are breaking. Why?

Because there are no rules to great writing, but as we start on this journey to becoming better versions of ourselves, knowing the rules will help us avoid falling into some fairly obvious “bad writing” traps.

Knowing what not to do sometimes is more useful than knowing the opposite. And whereas talent can’t be learnt, craft can.

Here is the first thing I learnt.

Picture an agent or a publisher that you hope will take an interest in your work. Imagine them receiving your lovingly crafted manuscript. It’s been a while since you’ve sent it, but today it finally made its way to the top of the list and onto their desk. They are about to pick it up.

Do you have that image settled in mind? I will wait. Don’t worry. Ready?

Now… All of us would like to imagine that they can’t wait to delve in and will be reading with the sole purpose of enjoying your prose. Lovely.

Back to reality.

Agents and editors receive hundreds of manuscripts daily, so in order to do their job and do it well, they read in order to get through the pile; their eye is on the lookout for anything that would allow them to dismiss the work in front of them and move on to the next. This is not because they do not want to love what they read – after all these are both knowledgeable and avid readers we are talking about and everyone wants to love what they read – but their time is precious and their workload grows greater by the day, so they can’t afford to give a lot of their time to a manuscript that does not grab and hold their attention. What they want is for the writer to give them no excuse to dismiss the manuscript.

What I aim to do over the next few weeks is to share with you some of the things I have learnt so far on my journey – the rule breaking that leads to manuscripts being rejected – in the hope that they will be of some use, either as a framework for the beginner or as reminders for the accomplished writer.

Until then… write – play – write. 🙂

34 thoughts on “Rule Breaking | Rejection Pile

  1. I always tell my students that they must know the rules before they can break them. Great advice in other endeavors as well. I look forward to reading your future advice. 🙂

  2. OMG Thank you Vic. Since I am so new to writing for public consumption, I need all the help I can get. I think I have the basics and am not chasing to be published, but take enough pride in what I do to care whether it is correct or not. So if anybody calls me on a mistake I can HONESTLY say “No, I meant to do that, and this is why…..” lol. So thanks much. Can’t wait to learn more from you.


  3. I always love your blogs so much Vic! The ease and smoothness that you weave through your musings are both a comfort and joy to read, always! SO WHERE WERE YOU??? I was going to nominate you on my blog and I could find a trace of you ’til now… Oh well. Next time… Yes and I think I’m grasping what you’re saying, with me just coming out of my shell now… LOL!

    • Thank you, Spartacus. I’m still here, although having hopped over the pond for the rest of 2013 – bar one day – it will be tough to keep blogging at quite the rate I’ve been accustomed to. Hope to still be able to add to it every day, even if I may not be able to answer comments and comment myself with the usual frequency.
      Take care and see you again soon 🙂

      • No. Completely unacceptability… LOL! Was it something I said? My new Meds are still kicking in. It takes about six weeks. I still have another two weeks to go, and have entered the horrible part where I’m dizzy all the time. Until then, my moods can be unstable from time to time. Sorry about that!

        I need you here commenting though! I have very few commenter’s, and you’re my most intelligent one! Please don’t be infrequent! :O(

  4. If the rules improve the writing, then I’m all for them! Often, however, they are entirely misunderstood and applied before the creativity has had a chance to really flourish.

  5. I agree with what you say. Rules must be known, no matter if you want to follow them or breaking them. I use to consider rules as a tool I can use to convey something. Sometimes these tools work as they are, other times they need a little… adjust.
    Great post, can’t wait to read more!

  6. Pingback: Featuring Vic Briggs: (Winner of nine consecutive awards!) | Spartacus2030

  7. Love this post!!! So many writers when they first start out try to push the limits before they even know what the “limits” are! How will you even know you’re breaking the rules when you don’t even know what they are?!!! Fantastic post!

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