Tales of “writing rules” follow us everywhere, from our critique groups to workshops to online blogs, videos, etc.
Get rid of garbage words. Don’t use passive voice. Don’t start a sentence with an "ing" word. Don’t head hop. No sex before chapter 5. (What!) And on and on it goes.
A fellow writer (Kate Walker) recently said, “The only rule in writing—whether romance writing or anything else—is that there are NO rules.” And I wholeheartedly agree. Try writing to the rules and what you will get is a story that is nothing more than the same old, same old. Nothing unique and no individuality. Just total annihilation of your individual voice.
To all the romance writers out there, please pay attention here because I know we are all told that in writing romance “you MUST follow the formula.” But, no, my sweetlings, you must not. There are rules that define a genre that must not be broken, certainly. For instance, that in a true romance you must have an HEA or happily ever after. But that formula theory does not need to followed. In my humble opinion, doing so is why you so often hear people say romance books are all the same.
I read a great article not long ago by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, authors of the Pendergast thriller series. I believe it was titled 6 Rules of Fiction, and I highly recommend reading it if you can find a copy.
One of those rules was about breaking common writing rules. Of course, you first need to learn and understand the rules in order to know when it’s either okay or appropriate to detour from the straight and narrow.
For instance, the “show, don’t tell” rule is practically impossible to follow with every word, making the writer (me, in this instance) suffer with extreme guilt and remorse every time (which is extremely seldom) I find that I’ve just written an entire paragraph (okay, so maybe a little more than that) TELLING my readers what took place, (oh, the horror) rather than showing them. But the truth is, sometimes the story is simply better that way. Just be thoughtful of when and how much.
Then, there’s the “write what you know” rule which is pure poppycock. That’s what research is for.
Or how about the “write what you can market” rule? Naturally, you want your published book to sell, but if you haven’t written it in the genre you love to read, chances are, it isn’t going to be as good as it could have been.
Saving the rest for another time, I’ll stop now, (and see what I just did? I started a sentence with an “ing” word, which is one of those no-no rules) and let you get back to learning all the rules of fiction writing and how best to break them.
Just let me say one more thing before closing. Stop worrying about the so-called rules and break them in the way that works for your voice, your story, your characters.
And remember, You Don’t Have To Be Perfect To Be Amazing.
By: Gina Salamon