I have two teenage daughters. In the years that they have graced my life with their presences, I have learned the importance of rules. Much like being an author, you need to know what rules are important to maintain and which ones are worth bending.
This month, you’ve gotten a lot of amazing advice on rule breaking and when it’s a good idea to take a stand and go it your own way. I want to take a bit of a different approach to rule breaking. Rather than give a list of what rules I think are flexible, to someone starting out I’d suggest you stick with the rules.
But…but….that’s not right! Rules are meant to be broken! My story is different and I understand the rules. I’ve seen eleventy million other writers do this. Why can’t I break the rules too?!?!
Did I mention I have two teenager? Daughters? “But why not” is a common phrase that echoes between the walls of my house frequently. The other phrase we hear a lot is “But you and Dad do it!”
There are two distinct set of rules in our home – the ones for parents and the ones for teenage daughters who say “but why”. The difference has to do with understanding the big picture in which the rules exist. Like many of you reading this, my husband and I have learned the hard way why certain rules exist. We faced the consequences of our actions when we broke those rules. Some of the consequences were minor, some not so much. As we got older we figured out which rule sets worked with our belief system, our outlook on life, our expectations. When we had children, we decided which rules would best instil the outlook on life we wanted our children to have. We know that as they grow, they will develop their own beliefs and will modify their rules for their own children.
A new writer can be much like a teenager. They know the basics. They have the confidence to spread their wings and try different things. They want to break the rules, if for no other reason than to see what the consequences will be.
I want to write a book that mixes first and third person!
I want to write a romance where the hero and heroine don’t end up together!
I want to write a mystery where the villain gets away!
Can you do all these? Of course. But if your goal is publication by a small or traditional publisher, then you might not get the response you want. That’s why starting out, new authors are encouraged to stick with the rules until they really get a feel for the business, what reader expectations are, and their own publishing goals.
And wow that turned into a far more philosophical post that I’d intended. I think it’s time to go harrass my teenage daughters again.
Christine’s hero and heroine break as many rules as they can on the set of their home improvement reality show. Check out her next contemporary release, NAILED from Harlequin Cosmo’s Red Hot Reads, releasing April 15th.