I'm not a seasoned writer. Compared to some of my blog mates and people I share several loops with, I'm a newbie. Like a lot of newbies out there I get confused by "The Rules." One minute I hear, "You can't do that, it's against the rules." Next, it's "There are no rules, just guidelines." Then there's "Sometimes you can break the rules." So... who's right? Sometimes I feel like a kid whose parents are giving opposite instructions, leaving me totally confused.
Now, I'm not talking about the no-brainer rules. It is not okay to use bad grammar (unless your character speaks with bad grammar). It is not okay to throw punctuation in inappropriate places all over your story. It is not okay to use the word "just" fifty times in one paragraph.
But what about some of the other rules? I've read numerous horror stories about writers who've entered contests and the judge circled every time they used the word "was." Really? Was isn't always passive. I've read stories where it is painfully obvious the writer was trying not to break a rule and the chapter read just plain weird.
And, oh my God, you wrote a prologue! Haven't you heard? You can't do that. Editors don't like them. Don't start a sentence using the same word more than twice. Don't have more than one pov in a scene. I'm sorry, but I have never been thrown out of a story because of that. Those big blank white spaces will throw me out of a story faster than a change of pov will. I'm not talking about head-hopping (which doesn't bother me either) I'm talking about a change of pov that's done smoothly and well.
So all you seasoned writers out there. Give us newbies the skinny. Do you or don't you break the rules (or guidelines, or whatever you want to call them)? How many have you broken lately?