the rules of writing ever drive you crazy?
Lately this topic seems to be of
great interest to some folks. Many worry about breaking the rules when
working on their manuscripts. In fact, I recently talked with some of
my friends about a few of the rule breakers.
• Do not open your novel with
• Never open your novel with backstory
• Do not use foul language
(including words like geez, golly, gosh, etc. Can you believe that?)
• Don’t use prologues
Anyway, you get the idea.
Honestly, the many rules can stifle a person’s creativity—namely mine.
But because I want to write with
excellence (hey, I try), I decided to follow the rule makers, even
though I’ve yet to meet them. (Though I haven’t ruled out using
prologues—there seems to be a fifty-fifty split decision on their
usage—and what I call the Leave It to Beaver terminology
isn’t foul, in my opinion.)
And I was happy with my
decision—until a few weeks ago.
I made my biweekly trip to the
library. Since I like to keep up on new releases, I loaded my book bag,
slung it over my shoulder, and headed home. Excitement washed over me.
There’s just something about reading a good book, don’t you think?
Later in the evening, I sat in
my trusty old rocker, rifled through my bag, and pulled out several
books. I scanned the first few pages of each, trying to decide which
one I wanted to read first. And do you know what I discovered?
The first one opened with
dialogue. I narrowed my beady, brown eyes. Hey, why did she
break the rules? Then I thought, Wait, she’s
probably well-known so she could get away with this.
Flipping the book over, I read
her bio and discovered the book to be her first novel. Hey,
that’s not fair.
I slammed the book shut and
scratched my head. “Hmm.”
My husband, who knows the
difference between my good “hmm” and my bad “hmm,” said, “What’s the
matter with you?”
“Well, I just don’t get it.”
“There are so many rules to
know what I told you about those.”
And he has told me about those,
bless his heart. What he told me was to write what God gave me—no
matter what. In my humble opinion, though, he doesn’t understand.
I sighed. “Easy for you to say.
I’d like to publish a novel.”
“And I keep telling you—you
will. Don’t you ever listen to me?”
I set the book aside and grabbed
the second one. After reading through the first five pages, all of them
written in backstory, my eyes shifted. What’s up with this?
Another blasted rule breaker.
I picked up the third book. I
didn’t notice anything out of order at first, but when I later read the
novel, I stumbled upon a few curse words.
And people were talking about my
Leave It to Beaver
You know, just when I think I
have everything all figured out, someone goes and changes the program
on me—again. And let me tell you, this kind of behavior is enough to
drive a person crazy, which is a short trip for me anyway.
I don’t understand is why
there are so many barriers. I get the cursing part and not using
sexually explicit scenes, but whatever happened to good old-fashioned
Now that I think about it, I
didn’t notice any of these rules before I became a writer. As a reader,
all I cared about was reading a good story that held my attention all
the way to the end. Yes, curse words put me off (the real four-letter
kind), and I don’t do smut scenes, but I didn’t notice all of these
other nasty rule breakers.
And now I do. And because of
this, I no longer see stories the way I once did. I see all the broken
“rules,” and to be honest, this is taking away from my escapism and
enjoyment, which is beginning to hack me off. I mean, shouldn’t a book
be about a good storyline to begin with?
Speaking of which, just last
night I opened another new release, a secular one, and I thought I’d
faint. Seriously. Do you know what I found?
The entire book is written,
dialogue and all, with no quotation marks, no changing of paragraphs
when there’s a new speaker, no order at all—at least not according to
what I’ve been taught. My eyes nearly crossed at the sight.
I hate to admit this, but, as
usual, my husband is right. I’m not telling him this, mind you, because
for those of you who know me, well, you know I’m tired of his being
right all the time.
All I know is that I want to
write with excellence, but I also want to be me. I find myself in a
tug-of-war, though, because I know there has to be some semblance of
order. I don’t want to break so many rules that I commit author suicide
(metaphorically speaking). Although, by the time others read this
article, they may want to hang me.
I guess for now I’m going to
write to the best of my ability whatever God gives me, and I’ll let Him
take care of the rest.
Besides, by the time I’ve
finished polishing my novel, the rules will probably have