Breaking the 10 Commandments of Writing

Breaking The 10 Commandments of Writing

By Laura Tarasoff

 Terry Persun and Susan Wingate tag teamed to present ten important rules of writing and when to break them.

If you want to know what works, read books in the genre you are writing to see how other authors have succeeded, or failed, when they step outside the rules.The most important thing to know before you break a rule is why that rule is there in the first place. Using examples from successful books, they showed how breaking the rules can work.

1. Start with action.

Breaking the 10 Commandments of Writing

Hook the reader from the first line, the first paragraph. Decide if you want your book to be plot driven or character driven and pull the reader in so they can’t stop reading.

2. Show don’t tell.

Consider what your genre typically does. There are times when telling to get to the next showing is legitimate. Remember to stay with the character or story.

3. Avoid using adverbs.

Take time to find an active verb. If you must use adverbs, be consistent in doing so.

4. Remove passive voice.

This can be a crutch and create a mind numbing passage. This might be broken if the action is telling in order to get to showing.

5. Refrain from repetition.

If the passage has a poetic, solid beat this can work. It must be rhythmic to hold the reader’s attention.

6. Don’t use sentence fragments.

Unless it is poetic or fits the scene, look at the whole picture.

7. Don’t make a sentence too long.

Don’t underestimate your reader. Shorter sentences give them time to digest what you’re showing.

8. Don’t use dialect in dialogue.

Practice will build your instinct. Dialect can bring you back and fill in the details.

9. Don’t vary your dialogue tags.

They can be used if the dialogue isn’t apparent. Just be careful the reader doesn’t lose what is being said by focusing on how it’s said.

10. Don’t use back story.

This works if the reader needs to be caught up on where the character came from.

How do you know when to stay with a rule or break it?

  • Go to the art first, then go to the genre.
  • And remember, we should enjoy writing.
  • Know the rules, but don’t be bound to them.
  • If breaking a rule makes your book go from good to great, then break the rule!



Laura Tarasoff is a poet and author learning the process in hopes of having her first book out soon. In the meantime, she writes for local newsletters and is creating an app of the trails of beautiful Whidbey Island, WA. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter @LSTarasoff