I Broke These Writing Rules & Loved It

shareasimageIn no particular order:

1. Write every day. (Not every day is a writing day. Some days are recharge and reflect days. Others are step-away-from-the-ms-before-you-revise days. Others are go live your life days.)

2. Butt in chair. (Or couch. Or bed. Or blanket on the grass on a breezy spring day.)

3. Write what you know. (I wrote Chasing the Sun because there was so much I didn’t know about my own family history. I wrote because I wanted to discover.)

4. If you don’t have a title for your novel, you don’t know your novel. (Chasing the Sun was not the original title my novel sold with. Even that title wasn’t the original title I used while it was a WIP. Fiction evolves. We’re allowed to evolve with it.)

5. Your main character should be likable. (I really like Andres, my main character. But recently I read a review in which the reader said she’d never loved a book so much yet hated the main character so badly. Hooray! This fascinates me. And just goes to show how subjective likability really is.)

6. Show, don’t tell. (It’s really okay to “tell” sometimes. Exposition is not a dirty word. The trick is to balance it, and know what details will service the story better if they’re shown instead of told, and vice-versa.)

7. Drink lots and lots of coffee. (I’m a proud member of the caffeine-independent tea club. I know Lori’s with me on this one, right?)

8. Revise, revise, revise. (Totally kidding. There’s just no way out of this one, or if there is, I haven’t found it. And I love revising, so I’m fine with this rule remaining unbroken.)

What writing rules have you broken?

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Natalia Sylvester

Natalia Sylvester is the author of the novel CHASING THE SUN (Lake Union/New Harvest, June 2014), about a frail marriage tested to the extreme by the wife's kidnapping in Lima, Peru. A former magazine editor, she now works as a freelance writer in Texas. Visit her online at nataliasylvester.com

12 thoughts on “I Broke These Writing Rules & Loved It

  1. #4: I never even heard that one before. Damn, every time I turn around there are more rules.

    #6: If you always show your readers, rather than telling them, then you’ll really bore them if you character has days when nothing much happens. If you’re writing about a detective conducting a long investigation, for example, sometimes you just say: “For the next two days I talked to everybody in the apartment building, and nobody had seen the man in the raincoat that night.” Rather than showing every single conversation.

    Rules that I’ve broken? Hmmm.

    I’m writing a mystery story where the detective quits and doesn’t solve the mystery. I thought of having her sweep in majestically at the end to wrap it all up (as she has before 🙂 ), but actually she vanishes from the book about halfway through.

    I wrote a very YA-ish story where the protagonist had no romantic escapades at all (let alone a triangle).

    My mystery stories do occasionally have magical realist elements.

    I don’t worry about making my characters likable (I think some of them are likable, even the one who’s killed over fifty people, but I’m not working to sell that idea to anybody).

    • Your example about the mystery detective and times when it’s right to just “tell” is so spot-on, Anthony. I was trying to think of one when I was writing this post and came up blank!

  2. You know how I feel about #1, Natalia. 😉 My sentiments exactly on all points. Though on point 7 I should migrate from the coffee club to your tea soiree. Kudos for tossing the rules. Here, here!!

    • So true, Louisa. And while we’re talking grammar, what about the rules that say no sentence fragments? I love a well-placed sentence fragment.

    • Haha, come to think of it, my tea isn’t caffeine-free either! It just has a little less caffeine than coffee, I guess…

  3. I think I’ve broken all these rules, too (even the coffee one, but that was a long, long time ago!). I really love breaking the “write what you know” rule especially once I figured out that what I know can help me intuit what I felt about all kinds of things I’d never actually done. Great post Natalia, now I’m off to break some rules!

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