Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It Ain't Easy Following the Rules

Last post I talked about rules we readers would like to tell writers.

Some rules we came up with:

1. Don't Bore Your Reader
2. Don't Annoy Your Reader
3. Don't Be Predictable
4. Misunderstandings don't make Good Conflict
5. Trust Your Reader
6. Make Your Reader Care
7. Be an Honest, Believable Writer
8. Keep Things Simple

Unfortunately, while I can spot these things in books, somehow I miss them in my own stories. I'm always breaking rules and not realizing it!

Thank goodness for my critique group. For my writing friends. For anonymous contest judges.

Which "rules" have you broken? How do you keep yourself from doing it again? How do you feel about rules in general? (*grin* They're not my favorite thing, if you can tell)

33 comments:

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I have an addiction to prologue I'm trying to break from. ;)

~ Wendy

Lisa Jordan said...

Umm, I've broken every single one through the years.

I believe rules are more like guidelines to help us grow as writers. Just as someone claims something as a rule, someone else shows proof that it's broken.

I keep from breaking those rules by studying the craft and working harder to write better. In the long run, it pays off.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

LOL I love this post. Yep, I've broken some of them without meaning to. Oops!

Linda Glaz said...

I break 'em all. And Wendy, I learned from a very wise editor that if you jump right in, unless the story can't be told without a prologue, you'll have a stronger start. Keep going, be brave, slash and burn that prologue. hehehe

Linda Glaz said...

BTW breaking them all ISN'T a good thing, thought I outta point that out. I do it and then hear about it from, ahem, Jess maybe?

Linda Kage said...

Um...cringe...all of them. seriously, this is NOT the kind of rule-breaker I want to be. But it's so easy to fall under some--okay ALL--of those categories every once in a while--okay, maybe more often than that!

Anita said...

LOL! Keep things simple. I am queen of the over-complicated. ;-)

No doubt I've broken each one along the way at some point, but now you've given us this fantastic checklist so maybe I can prevent future fumbles. Then again, I am only human, so it's doubtful. HA!

Great post, Jessie!

Dara said...

I've broken many of these...mostly #3 and #4. It's hard to see them in your own writing but like you said, I can pick them out in others. Must be our writer's "blind spot."

Stephanie Faris said...

I think one rule is, never lose sight of your overall message...I can tend to do that about halfway through!

Also, if you are bored by your story, what makes you think the readers won't be as well? Of course, it's hard to tell the difference between the story being boring or that itch we get halfway through a WIP to start something new!

Tana Adams said...

When I read I hate boring long paragraphs that drone on about the mud on the bottom of someones shoe (or thereabouts). I try to knock that off in my novels. If I find it I delete it. =)

Jessica Nelson said...

Haha, you guys crack me up! Love your thoughts on this.

And Linda G, heheehee, where's that new MS of yours? *grin*

Kara said...

I'm really good at breaking these rules...like too much telling not enough action:)

Kathryn Magendie said...

I am learning I don't need to say so much at the front of the book. I hope. *laughing*

Cheryl Linn Martin said...

It's hard NOT to break them! But, like you said, thank goodness for crit partners and contest judges. : )

Melissa said...

Breaking these rules is easier than holding true to them!!!

Keli Gwyn said...

I broke a biggie in the manuscript I sent my agent: Don't get the hero and heroine together too quickly. Oops! I fixed the problem, though, and she sold the story, so I guess that means I'm teachable. =)

Sarah Forgrave said...

I find that I don't trust the reader very much in my first drafts. I think in a lot of ways I'm still fleshing out the story for myself, so I have to do a lot of weeding in the edits.

Lauren said...

I'm with you, Jessica, on rules not being my favorite things! I just want to write my story! :)

Patti said...

I'm sure I've broken all of these rules at least once, but like you said that's why it's great have a good critique group.

jdcoughlin said...

The rule I break all the time, language. I am in love with lovely language. I write passages over and over until they sound exactly right. Even when they are superfluous tidbits. I think sometimes, language trumps story.

Jill Kemerer said...

Yeah, I continue to break rules (not in a good way!) with each book! Most of the time, I can spot the problem during revisions, but often it takes my crit. partners to gently point them out. Thank goodness for cp's!

Caryn Caldwell said...

I've probably broken all of these rules numerous times, especially since I started writing fiction in, I don't know...middle school? A long time ago, at any rate. But yay for critique groups!

MaryC said...

I think my biggest failing is with rule # 3 Don't Be Predictable.

I read somewhere recently (apologies because I can't remember where) that you should make a list of the ten top resolutions of a scene that come to mind - and then find a new way to do it.

I'm trying but it goes against my nature - which is pretty predictable.

Terri Tiffany said...

I know I bore my reader sometimes--I like to write about stuff that probably is making them snooze!
Any word yet??

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I've probably broken Rule 8 more times than I care to admit. Nancy Rue of Nangie101 fame, calls it, "RUE - Resist the urge to explain."

Blessings,
Susan :)

P.S. Nangie101 is a workshop given by authors Nancy Rue and Angela Hunt.

Jessica Nelson said...

Hey Susan, yes, I love that RUE. In fact, that would make a good blog post.

Terri, no word. I'm seriously hitting paranoia stage where I've been imagining my ms lost in the mail somewhere. Eeek!

Georgiana said...

LOL, I break my own rules all the time! Funny how easy it is to spot in someone else's work. I think my rule breaking list is too long.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I don't know why but I always write one main character who is completely annoying or unlikable. Sometimes it's the hero; sometimes it's the heroine.
I always have to ask to crit partners to pay careful attention to that and point me the way to change that. :)

Jessica Nelson said...

Jennifer, sometimes I do that too. I don't know why...

Georgiana, rule-breaking lists are always too long. lol

Oh Mary, I know how you feel. Predictability pops up in my stories too.

Yep, crit groups are wonderful!

Sarah said...

Interesting post, and interesting "rules." I don't write books, but I'll have to consider these in respect to my blog posting. I think I have a hard time keeping it simple. I KNOW I've read books that irritated me for making things too obvious and other reasons. Thanks for giving me something to ponder this morning.

Julie Jarnagin said...

My first draft breaks almost all of those rules. That's why I have to do so much editing! LOL.

Nancy said...

I try to make my readers care about my characters, but I may not have succeeded as well as I would have liked. I guess it means going back and showing more levels of their personalities.

Jessica Nelson said...

I'm glad you chimed in, Sarah. :-)

LOL Julie! I feel you.

Nancy, why do you think you didn't succeed? Everyone responds to characters differently. Bear that in mind if you're going over contest comments. :-)