I have a couple of nicknames at school. Sometimes I’m called the Dress Code Nazi, sometimes the Hall Nazi. In truth, I tend to be both. Why? Because I think rules are important, and I tend to see each and every time a student breaks one.
I hear every single f-bomb. I see every in appropriate skirt. You’ve got a shirt with a double-entendre, I’m the one who’s going to catch it. Our students are not allowed to wear hats or have their hoods up. Whenever I walk down the hall, the boys act like Pavlov’s dogs, jerking off their hats or slamming down their hoods the same way those puppies would drool. They know I’ll catch them, so when they see me, they immediately correct the violation.
Why do we have rules? To prevent chaos. At least that’s what I tell the students. Funny thing is that where writing is concerned, I never—I repeat never—follow the rules.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I am very strict about rules concerning grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Ask any of my critique partners or the entrants I’ve judged in contests, they’ll let you know exactly how strict I am. I’m also very deliberate in my word choices, not wanting to leave the interpretation open to semantics. I tend to think the rules have the potential to ruin the book when there are too many about the story itself.
Let me give you an example. Rules of the Game (ironic title, right?) was a book a lot of people told me I would never sell. Why? Because the heroine, Maddie, is a romance writer. The publishing rules supposedly say that no editor wants to buy a book where the protagonist is an author.
Really? Why the heck not? So I broke that rule and wrote the book I wanted to write. I asked an editor I know from Twitter whether a story about an author was dead before it was even born. She told me absolutely not, and she asked to see it. Then she bought it. I’m very proud to say that Rules of the Game won the HOLT Medallion for best novel with strong romantic elements.
Another example is the supposed rule that no readers want to buy books with older heroines. Says who? So I broke that rule, too. Several times, as a matter of fact. Women over thirty still fall in love and still need romance in their lives. I’m not about to let some silly “rule” deprive them of books with older heroines, nor am I going deny myself the fun of writing them. Turning Thirty-Twelve has Jackie, whose forty-second birthday celebration opens the story. Grace in Saving Grace is thirty-nine. To heck with that “rule”!
Despite what my school nicknames imply, I’m actually a rule breaker in the first degree. All I ask is that you never tell my students.