Breaking All the Rules

Dianne: So, the topic this month is “breaking the rules” — the rules we break, the rules we want to break… I feel like we break a lot of rules. Like the one that says we’re supposed to focus our efforts on one genre. Our stories do fall under the romance umbrella, specifically queer romance, but inside that…we’re not so good at focusing on a single subgenre, are we?

Anah: Nooo, not so much. Maybe it’s because there’s two of us? Or maybe it’s mostly me… *hides the stack of science fiction, cozy mysteries, and fantasy novels in the WIP pile* You can always blame me, you know that. We also don’t write exclusively gay characters in our gay romances, that’s another one I notice we’ve broken pretty much all over the place—a lot of our heroes are bisexual and even have past (once-happy) opposite-sex relationships.

Dianne: Oh, man. Yeah. We’re really not good at following that one. Or our characters aren’t. Maybe I’ll blame them, instead. *laugh* Then there’s the rule that says we’re supposed to choose a side: plotter vs. pantser. We’re on both sides of that war…

Anah: I think we’re both on both sides of that war individually as well as together. Though you like lists more than I do. Between us, I’m the pantser. I feel for you most days because it’s got to be like sitting in the back seat during a car chase through rush hour, dealing with me. I have eleventy-three ideas out there and am headed for the edge of town while you’re back writing down the first thing I said.

Dianne: I do love my lists. But I also love letting the story run away with us. I’m not much better than you when it comes to new ideas… I just get away with it because I’m sneaky. I write them on the list and pretend I’m picking something we planned ahead for!

Anah: Once the first draft is done, I’m not a pantser at all. You know me, we finish and I’m all: I REGRET EVERYTHING. I want to pull it apart and analyse it down to whether or not we used too many three-letter words on each page and things like that. It’s funny now that we’re talking about rules and I’m wracking my brain to think of some because I think we used to care a lot more about them when we were younger and starting out. Sometimes rules aren’t very helpful, at least not on the first draft of something, because they stop us from exploring.

Dianne: That’s a really good point. We used to be very rules-oriented—do you remember our attempt to map out the placement of theme items before we’d written the story?—but lately all that has fallen away and we’re really story-focused. Whatever is good for the story is what we do.

Anah: I remember that, yes. Ah, the halcyon days of youth when we thought we were actually in charge all the time. What was far more interesting was going back after and finding out what was significant. Same as the elaborate calendars we’ve ended up with; making them beforehand is usually a disaster but we really need them after the fact to make sure we didn’t miss a month or get someone’s age wrong. I was taught that there’s no rule in writing that you can’t break—as long as it works when you break it. I think that’s what happens for us, we do pull ourselves back in line when things don’t work but when it does work, there’s no sense following a rule for the sake of the rule when the writing is successful.

Dianne: And that, of course, is what revisions are for. Figuring out what is and isn’t working, and getting rid of the latter.

Speaking of revisions, we should get back to working on them…

Until next time,
–Anah & Dianne

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Breaking All the Rules — 6 Comments

  1. Dianne and Anah, I love this post! I’m always fascinated by writing teams who work well together and have for some time. It was wonderful to get a peek inside of your working relationship and complementary writing styles.

    • Thanks so much! We’re always trying to tweak our process(es) for more efficiency or to make sure we are both happy with however we’re working at the time, but in the end it always comes down to what works for us in the moment…and *something* always does!

  2. I love your process. It obviously works because I also love your stories. I can relate to what you say about “we used to care a lot more about them when we were younger and starting out.” I was the same way. With age comes wisdom and a certain amount of I-don’t-give-a-flying-f*!k.

    • Aww, thank you! I’m super flattered. And yes, absolutely. Rules seem SO important when you’re just starting out, don’t they? We’re at the point now where we realize what the rules are meant to guide us toward or away from, and we (mostly!) feel capable of deciding if those are things we want for each individual story.

    • If you’d asked me fifteen years ago, I would have said the same! But now it just feels natural.

      I’m always really interested in reading about how other writing teams work, too, though, because I’ve learned through the years that everyone does it differently, so it’s always fascinating to find out how someone else works.

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