In the world of writing there are many rules; almost as many rules as there are for parenting. There are rules for grammar, structure, plot, point of view, narrative, character, use of adverbs, length, genre. There are rules for writing regimes, how often and when. There are rules for raising your profile, gaining an audience, social networking. There are submission rules, how to find an agent rules, how to find a publisher rules and how to be commercial rules.
Rules are good. Rules are helpful. Rules are there for a reason. They stabilize society. They streamline processes, they make books marketable, they help you make the most effective use of your time, they help you to become a better writer.
Rule-consciousness is one of Cattell’s sixteen traits of his personality trait theory. How rule bound you are is sometimes measured on personality tests determining your suitability for certain kinds of employment. You may be the kind of person that is susceptible to social or peer pressures. Or as an artist – are you a free thinker, an experimentalist, a subvertor of convention, a mould breaker?
As a parent, as a writer, I want to fit in. I want my children to be accepted among their peers. As a writer I want my books at some point to be read and enjoyed, to make sense to people. But also I don’t want to be caught in the river of the done thing. I don’t want to spend a fortune on my child’s birthday party because every one else is doing it. I want to write from my gut first and foremost, dare to say no to convention and create something that will inspire.
The rules are changing in publishing. E-books and self-publishing, blog posting fiction are now a way of reaching an audience, not just an alternative to conventional publishing. This may lead to greater democracy, rule bending, the breaking down of categories, where the reader now rules. This may be the time when we can be the writers we want to be, using the rules to guide but not dictate, to give coherence but not stifle, to ensure quality but provide freedom.