Writing Rules (and Dumping Them)

I came across this quote by Edward Van Halen (learned he did not like being called “Eddie”, but preferred Edward.)

“To hell with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is.”

Eddie Van Halen
Edward Van Halen breaking all rules!

He was surely talking about music, but why can’t it relate to writing, too?

Rules First

There’s an ongoing discussion/argument about writers needing to know the rules before they break them

“It is also worth noting that those writers who understand the rules enough to break them effectively are those least likely to break them often. Trying to play fast-and-loose with the rules too often makes you look like an amateur – or ignoramus – instead of a rebel.”

The belief is if you want someone to read your book, it must look professional. If you don’t care if anyone reads it, break every rule blindly unknowing of why you are doing it.

Learning the Rules: Unwittingly & Purposefully


After reading books for over fifty years, I learned rules by osmosis. I know a lot of it wasn’t conscious, but I learned the flow of books, took in how adverbs were limited, and understood how writing was concise and often tight.

Then as I figured out this writing hobby of mine might actually become a book (or four), I bought every writing book I could find. I actively learned the rules, intending to write professionally. And then I set out to do just that.

My Writing Style

Stream of Consciousness
Artist – Susan Dupor – Stream of Consciousness

I’ve always been a stream-of-consciousness writer. I tried to write for magazines and newspapers, but was only accepted by niche and liberal-writing-style magazines. I did well writing reviews, both book and food. I wrote beautiful stories for Rec.Arts.Disney.Parks (a newsgroup) 25 years ago. I had a midwifery blog for 12 years and loved writing in there. And now here I am, another blog to hold my writings.

I’ve called my style “Blog Style” for years, knowing I could not write coldly or precisely enough for traditional presses. Even in school, writing essays and term papers tended towards the informal. I was able to impart my meaning despite my style, so received good grades anyway.


While several styles exist for Bloggers, I don’t seem to fit any one of them in particular. The earlier definitions were “journal writing,” or the combination of “web log” that became the word “Blog.” Those fit me better, for sure.

My Style of Writing These Books

I’m working on one right now, but have three more in the wings and I’ve been trying to write them professionally, but it’s tough when that is not my main style of writing. I know this is part of what is slowing me down, has been slowing me down. 

Now that I’m writing here more, my writing has loosened up while working on the book In the Bushes (working title).

In the Bushes

Am I Dumping the Rules Now?

I think I might be. I want to trust I can get my thoughts across without freaking out about the stray adverb or if the ellipses is three or four at the end of a sentence (because there is no set rule about that one). I do have the Associated Press Stylebook beside me, so I suppose I am somewhat concerned about rules, but could I ever write for the AP? Doubtful.

Pouring Water

Perhaps I am writing in my style with a bit of the rules? That might be exactly what I’m doing.

How do you write? Do you have a style? Do you follow the rules, or break them like Sting is in the video below?

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