Friday, February 26, 2010

Breaking the Rules

I came across this great post called How to Break the Rules at the Book Cannibal.  He lists all the ones I've heard before, as well as a few I haven't. The end of the article points out that some of the rules apply more to short stories, and that speculative fiction (i.e. sci-fi and fantasy) tends to be an exception at times.

I am writing speculative fiction, so one of the rules I've struggled with is not revealing too much detail about my world up front.  I took a lot of the explanation out, but ended up having to put some back in because my readers were totally confused.  Instead of a prologue,  I now have a three-sentence Introduction which seems to be doing a good job of succinctly putting things into context before jumping into the action.

I really appreciate the advice about pleasing one person.  I've had so much feedback from different people, that I feel both I and my novel are both being pulled in too many directions at once. As a result, the narrative feels choppy to me.

I've decided to take a break from feedback and just write to please myself first.  I may end up completely changing the point of view, but the way it is now just isn't working for me.  So it's good to have the reassurance to follow my instincts.

The rule I would break is the one about describing scenery.  I re-read Tolkein all the time because of his lavish descriptions that pull me into Middle Earth.  While I'm not writing as much of that as he did, I'm still describing things a little more than many of my plot-oriented friends prefer.  But I feel it's important to establish the characters in their environment.

The thing is that the descriptions and world-building details that readers skim on the first reading, are the things they linger over on the second, fifth, and tenth readings.  I want my story to be rich enough to keep bringing the readers back over and over.


  1. good for you on writing for yourself. maybe you can help me with world building on my 3rd draft. i seem to be leaving that out this time (probably because i just want to get the darn thing done!)

    i just noticed your words under "post a comment." now i'm laughing. if only blogging and commenting added to my daily word count.

  2. I never noticed that either Michelle. I got a laugh out of it Christine. Is it new?

    And I have to agree that writing scenery in a fantasy or sci-fi is essential. It can be overdone, but I need it to get into the world. People call me weird, but I like a good 750 page novel that takes the first 50 setting up the world and the characters. I don't like to have to work at figuring out the nuances of a world while the plot thunders on.

    Feedback is wonderful, but you have to know when to say thanks and not feel guilt. Unless it someone like Terry Goodkind, Raymond E Feist or Terry Brooks. Then you might want to pay close attention. ;)

    I'm anxiously awaiting more tidbits of your novel. In the meantime, I'll favorite the "Rule Breaking" article to read later.

    Thanks for the info.


  3. :o) Yes, the words above the comment field are new. I just realized how to add them.

    Donna, I'm not going to post any more of the book online. But if you want to read my next complete draft, you're welcome to do so.

    If I ever finish the dang thing. I've been so busy with teaching, being sick, leading Cub Scouts, and the family (including the dogs) being stuck at home with cabin fever and trying to entertain them. It doesn't help that DH is still out of work and home all the time. I don't have the house to myself any more, and I can't seem to concentrate when I try writing at the library.

    I want a normal routine back. Although I'm not sure if my life is *ever* normal! :oP

  4. Yeah, I'd like to read it complete.

    I'm working on another fantasy right now - 20 pages into a 450 page novel. I give quite detailed critiques with a beta read - no charge of course, as I'm pretty free with my opinions - so it takes me some time to read it. This one will take me about three weeks.

    So, if you're willing to wait a month or six weeks (I only do one at a time) and don't mind if sometimes I don't know how to say "Dude, that sucked" except by saying "Dude, that sucked"; well, I'd love to completely fall in love with Faldur.

    You have my e-mail from a CIC post, right?


  5. It drives me nuts when I hear, you have to learn the rules before you can break them. I know it's true, but I *know* the rules and still get taken to task when I break them.

    I think it depends on who's looking and who you're trying to sell your manuscript to. CBA has the writing rules. The general market says, show, don't tell and after that just write a great story. Hmmmmmm ....

  6. Christine--I agree that the "rules" are guidelines that I think must be tailored, not only for the material, but for the writer also. Some writers can pull off rule breaking maneuvers that cause other writers to crash and burn, so understanding that can open a lot of doors.

    There's a little something for you over at my place, BTW. Enjoy!


I apologize for the word verification. I hate it, but the spammers made me do it.