Be Deliberate

The term Rules used in the below post really means guidelines but we're taught that they're rules, thus that's the word I use. In reference to breaking them, I mean departing from the standards we're taught :-)

Rules are fun to break, but there's two things we must know before we break them.

1) What are the rules?

2) Why are we breaking them?

As I've been reading contest entries, a commonality stood out to me. The overuse of exclamation points. I'd forgotten how much we writers love that bit of punctuation. And so when I was reading a very good book, I noticed immediately when the author used exclamation points in three consecutive sentences.

I thought to myself: Now that's Voice. That author knows exactly what she's doing, and why.

When we write, we must be deliberate. Every word, every character, every action, every scene must have a purpose to the story. It is up to us to discover what that purpose is. It is up to us to decide how to use the rules to make our story most effective.

Have you broken any rules in your current WIP? If so, why? Leave an example, if you'd like. :-)


Katie Ganshert said…
I do break the rules at times. I actually have a post scheduled for next Monday along these same lines. I don't usually break the "no exclamation point" rule only because they are a personal pet peeve. I see them and they make me cringe just a little.
Jennifer Shirk said…
Once in a book, I think it was my "Georgie" book that I changed POVs in the same scene.
*cue the scary music*
LOL--it HAD to be done though. :)
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Katie. Yeah, they're rather noticeable...

Jennifer! Ha, if that's breaking a rule than I'm a star rulebreaker. *grin* I love pov switches and have to work hard to restrain myself.
Katie Ganshert said…
I need to clarify - that the exclamation points only bother me in a manuscript. I use them quite liberally in blog comments! HA!
Terri Tiffany said…
I always feel guilty breaking rules but I have found myself doing it a few times in the last two books I wrote because it needed to be done.
Linda Kage said…
Italics. I've been overusing italics like crazy. I know I need to cut back, but they're almost like chocolate cake to a confirmed dieter. Way too tempting!!!!! (sorry, I couldn't resist those exclamation points)
Unknown said…
I'm sure I've broken rules on purpose (and probably by accident) too. I just can't remember what they were. :D
Diane said…
NO!!!!!!!! NOt my beloved exclamation points...... next you'll be coming down on my dots too......?

Hugs :O)
Erica Vetsch said…
I use the occasional adverb...gasp! LOL

I noticed quite a few !!!!!'s in contest entries this year, too.
I'm w/ Erica, the adverb and I can be friends. And I prologue. I have this addiction. I may try to break it with the next novel. So far so good w/out it in my WIP. We shall see.

~ Wendy
Great post, Jessie! I sometimes use adjectives more than is suggested, but it goes w/my writing style/voice and I try to choose them carefully.

Hang the code, and hang the rules. They're more like guidelines anyway. Argh!

Keli Gwyn said…
As a Diva of Details, I soaked the rules deep into my writerly soul and endeavored to keep every one of them. However, my writing ended up flat. Now I grant my OC self permission to break them on occasion--but only if I have a good reason and doing so serves my story.

And I'm with Katie. Exclamation points are fun to use in blog comments!
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Katie! Me too!!!! Heeheee

Terri...STOP! You know the rules inside and out, I bet, so now it's time to use your Voice and let the words rip, rules or no rules. :-)

Oooh, Linda, so you're an italics queen? That's funny. ;-)
Jessica Nelson said…
You're funny, Stina. :-) That's probably a good thing to not be hung up on what you may or may not have broken. :-)

That's right, Diane! NO ellipses allowed. Well, maybe one per scene, but that's IT. *grin*

No, not you Erica! I can't believe it of you. LOL
Jessica Nelson said…
Wendy, that's interesting about the prologue. I've heard some bias against it but I have one too and I think it made my story stronger.

Anita, you got it, girl! :)

Keli, I think you've hit on something about the story sounding flat. A new blog post is percolating, thanks to you...:-)
Laila Knight said…
I'm guilty of some adverbs, dots, I love dots, and italics. What's wrong with the occasional exclamation point? Sometimes you have to make your characters scream. It sounds funny reading it out loud if it just ends in period...^-^...
Jessica Nelson said…
Hahahaa, Laila, occasional is probably fine. Repetitively...not so much. LOL I love dots too! :-)
Stephanie Faris said…
I'm not sure I use exclamation points ever. I do tend to use em dashes, which may be breaking rules, but whatever!
Tamika: said…
I'm with Wendy on the prologue. I've made my case to myself and I'm holding to my guns:) It works for my story, period.
I break, fix, and break again just about every rule out there! POV swaps, though, if I've broken them then I fix them for good in my edit round. It's a pet peeve for me, as you well know. ;)

I'm with you on the exclamation marks, girl. When they are used deliberately, as opposed to all the time, they are very powerful and you really feel the WOW factor they are meant to offer. All too often they are very overused in unpubbed work, though, I agree.
I like switching POV's in a scene too, but I refrain from it, grudgingly. I also think every once in awhile it's okay to use...passive.
I'm breaking rules as I write my current WIP as I'm mixing viewpoint - alternating chapters, and also switching between 1st and 3rd person.

To me, it seems to work so for now, I'm sticking with it.

Good to find you through Anita's blog and look forward to following your posts

warm wishes
Sarah Forgrave said…
I'm drafting a new story, so I'm breaking all sorts of rules all over the place. Don't worry, I'll put my obedient hat on in the edits. :) I love your point about how a voice can be lost when we follow the rules too closely. But the rules are obviously in place for a reason. (And as you can tell from my comment, I'm also addicted to adverbs.) :)
Tana said…
OK I'm guilty of using the occasional adverb. I'm very sorry about this. ;)
Hi Jess -

Shh, don't tell anyone. I used a flashback in my first book. The device provided some high drama for a tense situation.

Susan :)
Karen Lange said…
I aim to be deliberate. Some days it comes off better than others. Good food for thought. :)
Great post and question!!!

I often use fragments in my writing, even though it's a no-no. As with the book you're judging, it's part of my voice.

Makes me sound like me.
Jessica Nelson said…
Well, Jeanette, I happen to LOVE fragments, so write on, girl! LOL

Karen, yep, you're so right. I usually forget to be deliberate. *grin*

Susan, you NAUGHTY writer!! *grin*
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Stephanie, you know, I haven't seen any rules about em-dashes. Hmm. But I'm glad you know what they are. I often see ellipses when really it should be an em dash.

Good for you, Tamika!! ;-)

Whoooo, Jessica, you said a very bad P word. LOL But I agree with you, actually. :-)
Deb Shucka said…
I agree that it's fun to break rules, but that intentionality is the key. It doesn't work to break rules for the sake of rebellion.

I like adverbs, in spite of all the cautions against using them, so apply them liberally - at least in my first drafts. :-)
Mary Curry said…
I'm with Diane...ellipses.
*hangs head in shame*
I love them.

I also love prologues so what can I say. I'm just a mess I guess. Funny, because in life I'm not a rule-breaker. I guess it's just my fiction-writer's heart that's rebellious.

As usual, I'm late stopping by, Jessica, but at least today it's good because I can congratulate you!
Nancy said…
Yes, Jessica, that is the true artist, isn't it? To be able to greak a rule with class and let the meaning come through clearly and not the mechanics. Bravo on your great post.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hahaa, yes Deb, the trick is letting go in the rough draft and cutting what doesn't work later on. ;-)

Hey Mary, thanks for the congrats! And you're never late. I only post once a week so comments all week are cool with me. LOL

Thanks Nancy!!!
Unknown said…
I break rules all the time in my stories. Although most times I don't realize I'm breaking them.

I break the rules by using fragments. But you're right, everything needs to be deliberate!

Also, I wanted to stop by and congratulate you on being a finalist in the G. contest. Good job!


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