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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > January 2016 > Style: Make an exception

Style: Make an exception

The writer’s world is full of dos and don’ts but sometimes it pays to ignore them, says Karla Dearsley

How can writers obey the advice they are constantly given and still stand out from the crowd?

Publishers’ guidelines provide contributors with lists of what they want and don’t want, but the breakout blockbuster novels are those that set new trends, and competition winners have to be memorable. The rules writers are told to follow are generally good advice, but sticking to them too slavishly has pitfalls, not least that they can be contradictory. In adhering to one you might fall foul of another. Following the rules about reported speech and avoiding the passive could lead writers to commit the no-no of repetition.

Breaking rules doesn’t mean ignoring them, or indulging in sloppy writing – rather the reverse. When you know how the conventional guidelines work it’s possible to circumvent their restrictions and turn them into challenges and opportunities. In order to create the effects you intend and develop a fresh, distinctive voice you need to bear the rules in mind.

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