“These rules, pressed far enough, contradict each other. Such is the nature of rules for art.”

March 21, 2013 at 9:36 pm

I came across this quote just the other day with another set of rules for authors and I think it sums up my response to many of the rules I have just looked at for writing a modern novel. Rules can be broken, unlike laws which are more binding. Rules are things you have in a game, and if everyone agrees, they can be changed for the benefit of all.

Certainly, it’s clear the rules I have just been looking at did not apply when people like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens were writing. So they will probably change with the times as things progress. And what will force the change? Who decided these rules in the first place? Was it simply some boffin in an office somewhere, some submissions editor maybe, who decided what they were?

More likely, they came out of a reflection of what the audience demanded, or perhaps what publishers think the audience demands. So they are considered useful things to adhere to if you want to pique a publisher’s interest in your work. However, the public is a fickle beast and things can change in the blink of an eye. Perhaps any one of us might be the author that sets the trend for a new rule rather than the one who follows the crowd!