A Rant . . . And A Rave Review

I did it again.

I read a romance novel published in 1987 by a bestselling author. And boy did she break the rules. Especially with POV. (No, it's not Nora Roberts, lol). The heroine described herself in ways that were obviously the writer's words. And of course, there was backstory.
Then I was annoyed by how often the heroine's violet eyes widened in innocence and how she was so petite and perfect. LOL, but that's just jealousy, seeing as I'm a tall woman.

So who came up with the rules? Or the "guidelines"? They certainly didn't play in the eighties. But here' s the kicker.

I read this 400 page, small print book in less than twelve hours.

Agents and editors say this all the time. Or maybe it was Mrs. Snark. Good writing trumps all.

This lady isn't a bestseller for no reason. (Is that a double negative? Whoops.) I was completely hooked by this story. It was wonderful, romantic, if a bit cliche, seeing as it's twenty years old. But even the cliche parts didn't stop me from devouring the story.

The lesson here is that writing "rules" can only do so much. And most readers aren't even aware of any rules. They just help your story be more coherent and structured.

But in the end, a compelling story with gut-wrenching writing is what will snag a reader and hook them.


Anonymous said…
You are SO right about the "good writing trumps all". But it doesn't even really have to be all that good. It just has to capture the emotions of your specific readership.

The YA novel, "Twilight" is a great example of this. I work in a middle school library and that book is constantly flying off the shelves. They LOVE it.

I read it last year because my daughter wanted to read it. It was okay. Nothing too amazing. The author had some interesting twists on the vampire canon. Other than that, personally, I thought the characters were as thin as the paper their story was typed on. BUT, it's a national best seller. They're coming out with a movie version next year. This woman did something right. She reached her readership.

So I guess the secret to "good" writing is to know who you're writing for, then fit your story to fit that demographic as best you can without losing sight of your vision.

Nothing simple about that, is there? Heh.
Anonymous said…
Hi Jessica! I got your comment and was curious what you're reading? I had the same problem with the book I'm reading now. In the beginning, I couldn't get into it, but her lush writing held me enthralled.

So I stuck with it and now I'm 3/4 of the way done and biting at the bit to see how it ends. So she did eventually manage to get the story going.

Mine's called "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield. Just wondered if we were reading the same one...
Anonymous said…
Ha! That's so funny. I forgot I told you about starting it awhile back. :-) Yeah, it's getting good. I would already have it read if I weren't in the throes of rewrites at the moment.

I anticipate being done with my revisions sometime this week, then I'm going to take a two day break and just read so I can finish Thirteenth. After that, I'll go back and read my MS once more from top to bottom before sending it Kim's way--to make sure I covered everything she addressed and that it's all smoothed out.

I'll let you know after I finish Thirteenth if I liked the ending or not!

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