Follow the rules, but know when to break them. When you enter the world of studying, teaching, or editing and publishing creative writing, you quickly see patterns, and these patterns suggest rules. We’ve all read prologues that feel unnecessary to the story that follows, like throat-clearing: Prologues should be cut! Many successful novels have short chapters: Let’s make all chapters short! And so on. But the truth is there is nothing more exhilarating than reading a submission that defies a rule of thumb in a way that truly earns the dispensation. Accomplishing this requires the writer to have great insight into her own capabilities and intentions, but it’s certainly possible, and the payoff can be substantial.
—Megan Lynch, vice president, editorial director of Ecco, a division of HarperCollins