Very Young Writers: Break All the Rules!

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I’m starting a new series of sorts. Yeah, I sound like a Bible-belt preacher. But my little sister has been asking me all sorts of questions about what she should and should not do with the story she’s writing. At last, she asked me to write a blog series for writers her age who just can’t handle all this teenage-and-older advice.

As may be apparent, I thought it was a good idea. So this week I’m starting a new category of blogs written to Very Young Writers- VYWs, for short- in which I post random pieces of advice for writers who are just starting out. No explanation necessary; you know who you are. And if other blog readers are older and more experienced… you can still stick around and help me cook up some good tips.

So, dear VYWs, my first piece of advice is simple…

Break All The Rules

Let’s face it: we writers have made a lot of rules for ourselves. And that’s kind of sad, isn’t it? Who said that you have to write a certain way or else all the readers will line up and slap your hand?

Now, of course there is something to be said for the good advice of authors who have come before. After all, if you tell rather than show, people will probably yawn and put down your story. If you use bad grammar, people won’t understand the book at all. Some of these rules have a good purpose for published stories.

But- I hate to break it to you– chances are that you are not going to publish a book any time soon. I’m a good bit older than the average Very Young Writer, and I’m still considered rather young to be a published author. So spend your time now figuring out how writing works. Break the rules. At your age they don’t matter as much as experimenting, testing, rearranging, and finding your own style.

Critics say comedy stories always have happy endings? Make it sad anyhow. Older writers say you aren’t allowed to describe an object with a list of characteristics? Do it anyway. Teachers say you shouldn’t jump between viewpoint characters? Try it and see.

When you break the rules, one of two things will happen:

  1. You learn why the rules work and decide on the best way to follow them.
  2. You discover that the rules don’t work and make up some new ones.

I will let you in on a little secret: this is exactly how the rest of us older writers learned to write. For example, I learned story structure not by studying diagrams or reading K.M. Weiland’s advice (which is nonetheless very good), but by writing stories that had different structures. Some of them worked, others didn’t. No matter how many infographics I looked at, I would never have known until I tried it.

You have a brain, too, you know. Use that brain and try different things. The first a writer needs to have is an imagination. So, if you have that, don’t worry about making your story fit a set of rules. Good advice for your older sister just might be bad advice for you.

So break a few rules and find out.

Are you an older writer with some more advice? Or are you a VYW who has questions or ideas? Share it all in the comments. 

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12 thoughts on “Very Young Writers: Break All the Rules!

  1. I like that you point out that younger writers probably aren’t ready to publish their writing (not as a universal statement, obviously, but you know). I think that’s often a forgotten truth. I made the mistake of not putting my best foot forward when I first self-published, and I now wish I had waited until I was more prepared.

    Fantastic advice here!

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    • Thanks, Nate! I was thinking along those lines: what if I had focused on experimenting and developing my skills rather than trying to craft the perfect story? So that’s the best general advice I have for kids.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ll add to “Good advice for your older sister just might be bad advice for you” — the best of writers can break the strictest of writing rules and weave absolute poetic stories. I’ve read techniques I thought I hated, but then if the writer is good enough it works. And I love the story more for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s also a critical piece of advice, and I would have gone into it if I’d had time, so I’m glad you brought it up here. Even experts can and should change things up. What do they say- learn the rules and then you can break them.

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  3. Also, don’t forgot to stand for a moment of silence today! It’s so important. (Somewhat relevantly,
    Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, author of In Flanders Fields, initially threw away the poem thinking it was no good. Don’t underestimate your own writing!)

    Lest we forget.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I liked the picture. 🙂 In age, I am right in the middle of a very young writer and an older writer. So it was nice to see some simpler advice, even though I get most of the other stuff. 🙂

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    • Haha, yeah, memecenter is awesome. 🙂 I’ve never seen blogs specifically for in-between authors, either. I guess you get the best of both worlds, then?

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  5. Like others have mentioned, I’m glad you said that about the publishing. I feel like young writers put that as their main goal when they start instead of becomng a good writer, and it’s just wrong. I personally wouldn’t want to publish anything for a while, not until I have more experience of the world and can tell intelligent and well-crafted stories that mean something relevant.

    Anyhow, I’ve never thought about this, but you’re so right. One isn’t going to find their own unique writing style if they just obey all the rules. Maybe it’s why I’ve had struggles with my creative writing classes. Teachers grade you by what they personally think art should be and not by what the individual’s unique flair is. Not that all rules are bad, as there are guidelines for what makes a good story

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    • Yes, that’s another point- writing classes don’t encourage experimentation, do they? I would like to see a class that gives writing prompts on how to break the rules and discover for yourself why they work.

      Liked by 1 person

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