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We have discussed the writing process and we’ve begun to look at the most fundamental aspect of writing: language. Over the next few chapters, we’ll be looking at more of the raw materials writers draw on for inspiration, as we continue to look at the fundamentals that go into all good writing. This may be a good time to take a moment to think about the “rules” of creative writing. Some textbooks are organized around rules for good writing, though in general I try to avoid talking in terms of rules or in terms of what’s right and what’s wrong. When discussing rules, I prefer to think of them in terms of conventions—the expectations a reader is likely to have when reading in a literary genre. Some are genre specific and others hold true for any creative writing, regardless of form. As with any expectation, it is always possible to defy literary conventions, but it is helpful to know what they are so you know when you are bucking a trend and when you are following it. In the pages to come, when we discuss “what good writers do” or “what the conventions are,” you should realize that “good writers” sometimes break all the “rules,” but they typically know what they are doing and why. Taken in this spirit, the rules of good writing are more like ground rules or, as I like to think of them, fundamentals. Sure you can do something different, as long as you have good reason to. And if that catches on, then it may become the new rule or convention.
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