Breaking Your Own Rules

One of my biggest rules of writing is this: Don’t start editing until you’ve finished the first draft. Period. No matter what.

Two days ago, I broke that rule, and already I can tell it is paying off.

So how do you know when to let common sense override your rules? When do you bend the rules, or break them entirely? Should you be flexible, or should you hold fast to your principles, no matter what?

Everyone has a unique writing method that works for them, so please understand, everything I’m about to say comes only from my own perspective. You might agree completely, or you might think I’m so wrong that you’re overcome with the desire to throw rolls and rolls of toilet paper around my yard.

(Good luck with that, because we only have one tiny tree and like two square feet of yard.)

(And our neighbors have dogs.)

(Werewolves, actually.)

(So it’s best if you just don’t roll us.)

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, people, I’ve got to get back to the point here.

Okay. So here’s how I broke my own rule. I had made it to Chapter 15, which was roughly 33,000 words. My first drafts run short, so I was more than halfway through the story (I usually add 10-15,000 words in revisions). And as I wrapped up Chapter 15, I realized something.

I was losing it.

The story, the characters, the words . . . all of it was slipping away from me. I was going so fast through the first draft that I had stopped developing characters altogether. I couldn’t write dialogue anymore because I wasn’t sure how the people would speak. I was bored with the action scenes because I couldn’t see my characters doing any of the stuff they were supposed to do.

If I had kept going, each chapter would have become so short and so bare-boned that it would hardly be worth putting it on paper.

So I scrolled all the way back up to Chapter 1 and started back through, adding in description and really spending time on the characters and their dialogue. And it is really helping me.

What rules have you broken, and why?

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10 thoughts on “Breaking Your Own Rules

  1. ansley says:

    I’ve been breaking the “no diet drinks” rule a lot lately. Take yesterday for example…I had 2 (small) Diet Dr. Peppers and 1 can of Diet Coke. Bad girl.

  2. Heather McCorkle says:

    That’s one rule I won’t break. However, I’m an outlining and I usually flesh out all that stuff before I start writing. If I were a pantser (which I have been!) then I would totally break that rule! I recently broke my own rule about finishing my outline before starting. I was just so excited about the story that I couldn’t hold back!

    1. Anne Riley says:

      I outlined through abour Chapter 17 or so, but once I get that far it’ll be easy to finish. I know what you mean about being too excited to wait!

  3. Dana Elmendorf says:

    I’ve developed my own writing method over the years and not editing while I write has been the best decision I’ve made BUT…I can totally see breaking my own rules from time to time as the situation calls for it. Plus, as my writing matures and grows, I expect my methods will to. Hard and fast rules seem like they’d keep a writer stuck, like being 16…forever. Ahhh! (BTW..you tangents are totally cute and make me giggle.)

  4. Alicia says:

    I’m currently breaking my rule of no more reading until all my thank you cards are done. But I don’t WANNA do thank you cards anymore!!!! Reading is so much better!

  5. Melissa Garrett says:

    With regards to writing, I revise as I write. Even if I outline beforehand, I lose the feel of my characters if ignore character development in my rush to get words on paper.

    One rule I keep breaking, however, is the “no eating treats after 8 PM rule.” I have a weakness for ice cream. 😉

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Haha me too! And I’m glad to hear that you revise as you write – that is encouraging, since I’m doing that right now!

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