Ruth Harris and I have both written about how there are no rigid rules for writing good fiction, only guidelines.
Even guidelines don’t apply to everybody. Every genre has its own conventions. What is de rigeur for a romance can be deadly in a thriller. And what readers expect in a cozy mystery would be embarrassing in a gritty crime novel.
Then there’s literary fiction: successful literary fiction often breaks all rules and guidelines with reckless abandon. I’ve been reading a collection of George Saunders’ short stories that would probably crash any editing program because there are so many grammatical “errors.” But Mr. Saunders won the Man Booker Prize in 2017.
The problem is, we need to get a handle on the basics of writing before we go off and imitate George Saunders. Our grammar and storytelling skills need to be solid before we experiment. It’s the old saw of needing to learn the rules before we break them.
But what rules? What rules are worth learning, and what “rules” are totally bogus?