First and foremost: THERE ARE NO RULES IN WRITING!
There are only grammar and spelling rules. And frankly, that is for the benefit of the reader. After all, I don’t know anyone who actually likes to get a headache trying to figure out what something says.
For the longest, longest time, I was the only writer I knew. Sure I had the odd frenemy in middle school who also wrote stories and a couple of awesome poet friends. But it wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I met another aspiring novelist! Needless to say, we became insta-acquaintances, because I was also the only wannabe writer she knew. Until then, I was alone in my writer’s box. I was the crazy friend. And I felt every ounce of it.
Since I was alone, to improve my craft, I compared myself to my favorite authors and tried to mimic what they did. After all, I had no idea how to improve, no one to ask, and had knowledge of the self-help section of the bookstore. (That was for old people, see?) I wrote several “experiment” novels, trying my darnest to make each one much better than the last. Then I would get feedback from my friends who read a lot and try again. When I met this writer though, I finally had someone I could talk to, you know. I finally had someone who understood. I finally had someone who could tell me WHY my ending sucked. And here’s the bad part, I finally had someone introduce me to the “rules.”
You know the ones. The same crap the world has been passing around for decades. Spreading stress and fear and a crazy host of other crap. I’m not saying these rules should never be read. I’m saying they should be learned and then NEVER looked at again. Books on writing shouldn’t become your Writing Bible. Read them once, tuck them away, and pass them on to newbies you meet along the way.
Clinging to the rules doesn’t do you any favors. It only stresses you out, impedes your creativity, and causes you focus on all the wrong elements of your story.
Writing books are meant to guide you. They’re meant to help you figure out why your novels always turn into novellas, your pacing is always skewed, why your opening chapter is the most hideous thing ever, and other such debacles.
Read the dumb book, or books, and then NEVER read them again. Find a permanent place on your bookshelf and celebrate your newfound freedom as a bonafide rule breaker.
Still need help? Turn to people who are great and learn from them. The writing book is step one. Why on earth do you want to stay on step one forever? Step one is for beginners. Step one is the very, very basics of writing. Or what I like to call, the kindergarten of writing. And I have seen more writers fall apart from trying to follow the rules and stay in the first grade then ANY other possible writing malady. (And oh my gosh, there are so many.)
I’m not saying a couple of books on writing didn’t improve my craft. They did. And then I spent 5 years unable to finish anything at all, because I couldn’t stop thinking and worrying and rereading stuff. And if there’s anything that impedes your craft, it’s thinking too much. Read that again.
So, stop it. Glue the book shut if you have to. You are not doing yourself any favors. Either you learned what you needed to know or you didn’t. Either you know your ABCs or you don’t. If you do, then move on. Because writing rules are for the people who don’t know what they’re doing. We’ve all been there. Don’t stay there.