On Writing, How to Break the Rules and get Away With It

One of my pre-New-Year’s Resolutions is to read more books. (I make my resolutions early to get in the habit of doing them by January 1st.) I decided to start by re-reading one of my favorite series, Harry Potter. (Yes, the 6th movie’s release inspired my choice.) While reading the first few chapters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I discovered something quite interesting:

J. K. Rowling broke the rules.

I’m talking about those writing rules that all of us writers, publishers, editors, and agents swear by. (Rules I can’t seem to find written in a complete volume anywhere. Hmmm.) Many of you, like me, have attended a fair share of writing seminars and conferences. When I first started writing, I attended as many as I could, and I took diligent notes on everything. I wanted to make sure my manuscripts made it out of the slush pile and landed the editor’s desk. To further hone my writing, I took the Institute of Children’s Literature’s 1-2 year course on writing (which I highly recommend), and I studied numerous books on the craft. Throughout my research, I discovered various rules on grammar and style, from when to put a comma in a sentence to using a combination of short and long sentences in a paragraph to help pacing. Now, I teach writing workshops and seminars to help impart these so-called writing rules to others.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that J. K. Rowling broke some of the rules that agents and publishers (and even me) have told writers not to break.

I’ll let you in on a little secret:

Most successful authors break the rules.


Heck, I broke the rules. I wrote a crossover novel with a target audience of both kids and adults that was 100,000 words long. I’ve heard reports of 9-year-olds reading it in a day, so go figure. Because of this, I’ve decided that my next few blogs will discuss some of the writing rules J. K. Rowling broke, why it worked, and what it can tell us about the craft of writing.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog, which will discuss the rule about killing your narrator.

Fantasy novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason, which is being adapted into a graphic novel series by Wandering Sage Publications, Inc.  Weston speaks to children, teens, and adults about writing and the process of getting published. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. Find out more about The Elysian Chronicles at www.elysianchronicles.com.

About M. B. Weston

M. B. Weston is an award-winning fantasy, pulp, young adult, steampunk, and paranormal author. Her attention to procedure and detail gives her works an authentic gritty, military feel that takes an adventure tale to the level of a true page-turner. Weston’s writing attracts both fantasy and non-fantasy readers, and her audience ranges from upper-elementary students to adults. A gifted orator, Weston has been invited as a guest speaker to numerous writing and science fiction/fantasy panels at conventions across the US, including DragonCon, BabelCon, NecronomiCon, and Alabama Phoenix Festival. She has served on panels with such authors as Sherrilyn Kenyon, J. F. Lewis, Todd McCaffrey, and Jonathan Maberry. Weston has spoken to thousands of students and adults about the craft of writing and has been invited as the keynote speaker at youth camps and at several schools throughout the US.
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