It’s in quotes for a reason.

Think about it for a bit. I’ll give you some time.

Can’t figure out why I write it “rules”?

Okay, here it is:

Because not all writing advice works for every writer.

Or even every story by a particular writer.

One of the most difficult things a new writer has to do these days is wade through all the writing advice on the internet. There is a lot. There was a lot when I got my first home computer in 1998 and looked up writers’ websites. I got lucky and found Forward Motion for Writers before I found all the writing advice, so I lucked out again; they were able to advise me on how to use critiques I received and what to do with all that well-intentioned writing advice I was now coming across.

FM is still a top-notch site for writing advice, assistance, and encouragement for me, and there’s a good reason it is: Nobody pushes any particular advice as working for all writers all the time. Usually at some point in a chat or forum discussion, we’ll offer each other advice. In chat, it’s generally taken as understood that heeding any advice is optional for the receiver. On the forum, occasionally someone will post a bit of advice and include the statement it doesn’t work for everyone or Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV).

If someone comes along and says they’re trying to strictly obey a particular rule found out in the Internet, more than one person will chime in on how it works for them, and there will be a few comments regarding the fact that it isn’t a hard-and-fast rule for every writer or story.

Several authors I know constantly read how-to books. A few are trying to structure their writing to three-, four-, or five-act structures. Some are struggling with description, others with realistic dialogue, some with poetry. I know Trad Pubbed Authors and Indie Authors and Hybrid Authors, not all of them members of FM, but all of them online.

This is a veritable font of knowledge about writing. And I still have to filter things out. For instance, I know off the bat the act-structure advice won’t work for me; at a certain point of trying to listen to most writing how-to advice, I get so hooked on the advice my stories suffer, and that includes the advice of consciously attaching my story to a particular structure.

For much of the writing advice I’ve received throughout the years, I’ve been able to experiment to determine whether something worked for a particular story. It didn’t always, and if it did, I didn’t take it as written in stone whatever had worked would do so for every story. This is another thing a new writer doesn’t have experience with: Not all advice which worked before will work with every story one writer writes. That was a hard lesson for me to learn; I want all the writing advice I use to work for every single story, but it just doesn’t happen that way.

The key, at least for me, to figuring out what writing “rules” worked for me was that experimentation I did. I had to be willing to try new things as they came up. This is how I learned what works for me with most stories, and what particular different little things work on each individual story. A good writer—a writer who wants to improve their writing—experiments with these “rules” to find what works best for them on any particular story and remains flexible to change, and I understand that can be a hard thing to do.

But a good writer does their best and learns their particular writing quirks, and remaining flexible on the “rules” is a major part of being a good writer.