Never Say Never

Recently as I was traversing the blogosphere, I came across an author post that stated "Never blah-blah-blah." As in never do such-and-such when you write.

I didn't read the whole thing. I'd read this author's work before and felt that the craft guideline being espoused was too extreme and perhaps breaking it a bit might've benefited this author's work.

So I moved on, knowing that I'll never say never when it comes to my writing.

The reason I'm writing this is because I love to give my opinions on this blog about how to write a great story and to share craft tips but...I'm not perfect.

This is my official disclaimer. *wink*

If you read my book and you're a writer, you'll see places where I employed active voice, kept tension on every page, and used deep pov. On other pages...well, let's just say I'm better at dishing advice than following it sometimes. :-)

Do you worry about people reading your book and being disappointed? What was the last craft rule you broke? What is your favorite one to follow?


Jessica Bell said…
Too right. Never say never. I think I broke a lot of 'rules' in my debut. One: It has a prologue. Two: It uses a lot of description. Haven't had any complaints about it so far! Three: It's in first person, Present tense. Yep. How many times do you hear that that is limiting? Didn't feel limiting to me. Anyhoo. Never say never. A mantra I follow every day!
Terri Tiffany said…
Over the years I have learned that writers break the so-called rules and it still works for them. It's ok not to be so rigid--that's why we like so many kinds of work.
Your book is awesome:))
Loree Huebner said…
Everyone has their own way of writing. I could NEVER tell anyone how to work if they are getting the job done.

I've broken rules. We must write how it feels right.

I am so looking forward to your book, Jessica!
I wrote about rule breaking this week, we are on the same wavelength, Jessica!

I have learned to be brave and break more than I bend now. :D
Joanne said…
I sometimes break writing rules, and enjoy when other authors do too. It's part of the fun of the craft, seeing where we can take a story without going to literary jail!
Keli Gwyn said…
If I let them, the "rules" could stifle my creativity. I tend to be a rule follower, so I had to give myself permission to break them when I write. In my debut novel a character actually squeaks a line of dialogue--and it works. How do I know? Because it make it through copyedits. =)
Keli Gwyn said…
The line actually made it through copyedits. Unlike the one in my comment above, it didn't contain a typo. =)
Honestly? I worry more about writers reading my book than readers reading. :)

I just write and if it works, I keep it. If not, I toss it and fix it with something that does. Can't wait to read your book!
Unknown said…
If I'm writing a post about "craft," it's probably because I struggle with whatever topic it is I'm covering. It's always nerve wracking for a fellow writer to read my work.
Lindsay Harrel said…
I think you're so right. There are too many "rules" to follow--and sometimes I'm not sure why I'm breaking just works! One of the ones I break most often is to "never write a sentence fragment." But that's not realistic, especially when describing people's thoughts, because hello! We think in broken thoughts all the time. Plus a fragment can be used for emphasis too. However, there are times when a sentence fragment would be inappropriate. Sadly, I cannot come up with an example because it's only 7:30 in the morning and my brain is still a little sleepy. But suffice it to say that most of us know a misplaced fragment when we see one. :P

I can't wait to read your book as well!!
Jessica Nelson said…
Julie, I KNOW. That's the hardest part, know you all will be able to spot the weaknesses in my work. Yikes! lol

Jessica, so true. The hard part is if I don't see what's not

LOL Keli! You're too funny. I can't wait to read your squeakage! *grin*
Jessica Nelson said…
Jessica B,
That's interesting. Those are rules I'm not familiar with, probably because my genre is a little different than yours. But the prologue thing, I've heard that one. I want to read your book except I'm afraid it's going to make me cry! lol

Exactly Terri! We don't want to read the same thing over and over. And thank you for your encouragement. :-) I appreciate it!

Good advice, Loree! All of it.
Jessica Nelson said…
That's funny Glynis! All the way from Greece, huh? :-) I'll be popping over soon...

LOL Joanne, there is a certain kind of fun to it, right?

Oh my goodness Lindsay. I love fragments! Probably too much. lol
Erica Vetsch said…
I've probably broken most of the writing rules I can think of at one time or another.

The one I hold most sacred is single POV per scene, but I've been known to break a scene in two just so I can switch POV's.
Linda Kage said…
Oh, I'm pretty positive people will be disappointed over my stories!!! But on the up side, whenever I go into a release day, thinking this is the worst story ever, then when someone does say something positive, I'm always extremely shocked and happy!

But I should probably never do that, huh?! :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Oooh, Erica, don't read my book then. I tend to head-hop. lol

Linda, actually, I hold low expectations too because it's so much easier to be surprised in a good way than a bad. :-)
Sandra Orchard said…
Generally, I try not to worry about it. There's a lot of stuff out there that's not my cup of tea, so I know that my writing or story won't appeal to everyone. My own husband wishes we'd all go back to the languishing description writing of the early 1900s!

Unfortunately, writers can be the harshest critics, especially aspiring writers because they notice all the things they've been taught NOT to do.

When I went back and read one of my favorite authors years later (after learning about deep pov) the head-hopping in her story drove me crazy. It had never bothered me when I was just a reader!

On the flipside, now that I know how much blood, sweat and tears goes into writing a novel, I appreciate them all the more, even if it's not to my taste.
Patti said…
I was reading a post on world building and it was giving all this advice, but it had a caveat (do what you feel is right) and that's really what we need to do.
Unknown said…
Ahh, this is such a good post. I'm big on writing craft books. Yet, I've got this nagging voice in my head, asking, "Look, Melissa, can you really carry out ALL this stuff on EVERY single page of your story?" Answer, like you said, I can do my best, but I'm not perfect. And that's okay. :)

Pretty sure I break the rule about floating limbs all the time, saying things like "A hand reached out..." The good thing is, there's always revisions... :)
Sarah Forgrave said…
Oh dear, now I'm hoping I wasn't the person who said, "Never..." LOL! I'm finding the more I write, the more I let go of the "nevers" and "always". But there's plenty of good writing that comes from the rules too. :)
Haha. As you know, right now I'm battling some crazy punctuation suggestions in copyedit land, so I'm realizing that there is such a thing as following the rules too stringently.

I think the most important thing is to stay true to your voice, as long as you can do it in a way that the reader can understand.

That's how you decide: you ask yourself if it will make the story more clear or more emotionally relatable by keeping or breaking a certain rule, and you act accordingly.
Stacy Henrie said…
Yes, I'm worried about disappointing people! But if I've learned anything the last seven years as a writer (and as a lifelong reader), it's that everything is so subjective.

Books that break rules can be well received; books that keep rules can be not so well received. I think the best thing to do is write the best story you can, one that you love, and there will be others out there - even if it isn't everybody - who love it too.
Jessica Nelson said…
Sandra, the same thing happened to me with a fave author! But also, like you said, I know now how much it takes to write a book and even if I don't like someone's book, I respect that they poured so much into it.

Patti, yep. :-)

Oh Melissa, LOL, if I have floating body parts I don't know it. That's one thing I never, ever notice. Someone would have to point it out to me.
Jessica Nelson said…
Never fear, Sarah! The writer was published. :-) And you're absolutely right that there are good ones...I should do a post so people don't think I'm a crazy rule-breaker. Heh.

Well-said, Miss Anita!! When're you coming to do a guest post? lol

Very, very true Stacy. I do love subjectivity. :-)
Beth K. Vogt said…
With my debut novel coming out in May, I can think of ways I could write that book better now -- but I didn't write that novel now -- I wrote it then.
I hope that last sentence makes sense.
I have to let my first novel be that: my first novel.
I did my best -- whatever it was at the time.
I'm already working on book #2, determined to write a better novel, because I've learned so much more.
And yes, I know the rules. I remind others of the rules (it's what an editor does) and ... I break 'em. (the rules, not the people.)
YOu are so wise. I think a writer must be familiar with the rules to break them and carry it off--does that make sense? I'm sure every page of your book zings, and I can't wait to read it!

Yes, I worry that readers will say, "What? I can do better than this." But if one person is helped by my writing, I'll be happy.

My fav rule to keep is active verbs. My fav to break: fragments. I talk in fragments, so I write in fragments. Drives my son nuts.
Susanne Dietze said…
Oh yes, Jessica! I know that I'll disappoint some readers, but we have to work toward pleasing more readers than than we annoy, LOL.

Thanks for the words of wisdom!
Unknown said…
I never realized that other people might have the same the fear and concern that I do! I'm worried that if I ever do get published that another writer will read my work and think, "Wow, what was she thinking?"

I suppose I better just keep on with the advice of "never say never".
Kara said…
I agree never say never:) And I am great at breaking rules, sometimes I don't even know I did!
Heather Sunseri said…
Oh, I worry about the microscope other writers will put my book under. But I don't work in writing craft absolutes.
Jessica Nelson said…
Beth, you're cracking me up!!! I just had this mental image of gangster editors. LOL But I know exactly what you're saying about a first book and I love that perspective!

Jeanette, every page doesn't zing but I'll admit to still loving my story. LOL

That's true, Susie!
Jessica Nelson said…
Hahaaa, Caitlin, oh yes, I think most of us have that fear. :-)

Too funny Kara!

Heather, love your last line.
Jennifer Shirk said…
I know, no one is perfect, but even if you do write perfectly, someone is going to find something not to like about it anyway. LOL
My manuscript also has a prologue.

Not every reader will love my book no matter how well I craft it. I've also come to terms that editors/agents/critique partners will always find something they think I should change.
Nancy said…
I agree with your viewpoint very much. I recently used a word that technically isn't a word, bu it fit my meaning exactly and I used it.

I probably wouldn't do that in a book I was writing, but I might.
Karen Lange said…
I break rules all the time; I guess it depends on what I'm writing. Haven't completed an entire book yet, but yes, I know I will think about how others will see it. I imagine it will be a good character exercise! :)
Julie Dao said…
Oh Jessica, I love this post! Too often I see writers preaching about what to do and what not to do. But when it comes down to it, really... there ARE no rules. I'm not a fan of second person POV or present tense, but sometimes I'll read a story and the writing will suck me in and I won't notice it. Same with passive voice, or even books with tons of adverbs. I think the truest writing comes through when you're not worried about sticking to rules - and who designated those rules, anyway?!
Anonymous said…
Whenever I give advice on Monday Classroom on my blog, I always say: However, I break the rules regularly! ---because I do, and I encourage people to do that. I always want to be careful when giving advice to never say never (I hope I haven't said "never" -unless it's one of those hard and fast oh oh rules :-D)

But, also, we are not perfect - our novels are not these perfect tomes of Lofty Perfection.

WHen I read another author's work, I just hope to be engaged by the characters, want to follow them where they lead me, and to escape into the fiction - I really don't care about all the other stuff so much if I am engaged.

And, as I said on Jody's blog -- I am MUCH more forgiving now that I have my own books out - lawd! :-D I understand more now than I ever did before about this process of publication.

You are in a genre I do not normally read, but I am looking forward to reading your book.

And yes, I worry about disappointing my readers - but I just do the best I can, writing the best books I can, and hope I am loved :-D
Jessica Nelson said…
Well said, Kathryn! :-)

Julie, that's what I want to know too? lol

Karen, probably.

Susan, you rule-breaker! lol

Nancy, you know a lot of words we use now Shakespeare made up. *grin*

Jennifer, yep.
Faith Pray said…
I'm nervous of breaking rules, but am by nature a bit rebellious. So, there you go. My latest manuscript began with a prologue - a prologue that starts six months later than the actual story, so it's more of a post-logue. Then I read that prologues aren't an ideal starter. So... guess I have to figure out how badly I want the pro-post-logue.
Deb Shucka said…
I think we can't worry about disappointing anyone but ourselves when we write. That's easier said than followed, but it's what I believe. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Oh Faith...what a funny dilemma! lol

True, Deb. I pretty much agree.
Nancy said…
I didn't know that about Shakespeare. It's something that enriches my experience with his works. Thanks for the info.
I have learned to break rules. A recent post of mine shared much the same view as yourself. I was horrified to come across a 'never do this, and never do that'. If I followed all the rules and guidelines, my book would not have words inside!

Good luck with Love on the Range. When it is out I will happily pop it onto New Book Blogger
for free advertising.

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