I spent years and years and years internalizing the do-this-not-that lists directed at writers looking to land a contract.
Then the truth about writing rules became clear. So here they are, in order of importance:
Rule One: The story must connect with and entertain the reader so well, the reader will want to tell others about it.
Rule Two: Anything that interferes with the implementation of Rule One should be set aside.
That’s it. All the rest — all those guidelines and do-this lists and don’t-do-that warnings — are not truly rules. They are techniques and tools, and the best combination the writer uses might be different for every story. But the truth is that a writer can do everything “right,” yet still not connect with readers. That’s because readers don’t open a book hoping for better rule-following. They want to be transported by a story.