Show, don’t tell. Grammar. POV consistency. Don’t make the first scene a dream sequence. Make your main character likeable.
Sometimes, writing can feel like it’s all about the rules. But are these rules that we can break?
As many of you know, I’m working on a YA novel right now. I’ve been working on it seriously for over a year, but I started fleshing out the concept and writing things down over five years ago. It’s been a bumpy road…and that’s putting it mildly. But this process has taught me so much about writing, and I’m not even close to being finished!
One thing I’ve been exploring quite a bit recently is how far I can stretch “writing rules.” As I mentioned in one of my last posts, I restarted work on my novel recently because I had an idea. A very bad idea, many would say. An idea that I definitely should not, under any circumstances, follow.
Long story short, my idea for this novel has always been centred around two sisters. At first, one sister was much more prominent in the story than the other. But as I was writing the novel in April, my new idea for the story nearly unrecognisable from what it once was, it struck me that the other sister had risen in importance. A lot. Actually… I wondered. Are they equally as important now?
I stopped writing. I sat there and stared at the 20k document with a sinking feeling settling in my gut. Was I going to have to start over again? And ever since the conception of the story, I’d been writing in first person POV (as you do with YA novels). Would I have to change to third person?
Now, I don’t have anything against third person POVs. I actually think it’s the best way to go when writing a novel. But by this time, I’d really learned to get inside my main character’s head and I loved writing her first person POV. The thought of changing it now was almost impossible to think of.
And that’s when I got the horrible idea. The really bad, “you should never do this,” “run away from this idea right now” kind of concept.
What if…I wrote alternating first person POVs?
It’s not a revolutionary concept. Others have ventured into this forbidden realm, though few have done it well, from what I’ve been able to find. That’s why most people scream, Don’t do it!! You’ll ruin your book!!
But I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. What if…
I ran the idea by my friends at the Indie Space and they essentially said, “It’s not a normal thing that people do, and it’s easy to do it badly. But if you can do it well, go for it!”
So I did.
I can’t tell you the result yet, as I’m still working on the book, but it’s been fun and challenging to plunge into this new “style” of writing that I’ve never tried before.
It just goes to show you that nearly every writing rule out there is made to be broken – as long as you do it well.
Use writing rules to guide you. Don’t use them to limit yourself. If there’s a rule you want to break, do it. Try it out. Run it by people you trust. Maybe it doesn’t work, but maybe it does, and it’s mind-glowingly amazing.
Writing is all about taking risks, and sometimes, that means breaking the rules.
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4 thoughts on “Do you really have to follow “writing rules?””
To be honest, I think it’s not such a bad thing. I’ve seen several examples where it worked well. Often it’s then done by writing one chapter in first person, and another in third person. I think first person chapters can work well for getting into the character’s head. I never thought anything bad of it.
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I can see why people are mostly against more than one first person POV character. If the voices aren’t really distinct and if you don’t put exact equal care into crafting both characters, it can get super confusing and pointless. I’m already finding it to be a big challenge! I think I’d have a bigger problem with both first person and third person in the same book though, the discontinuity of that makes the orderly part of my brain cringe (although I’m sure it’s done well by many!) 😂 I agree that first person is great though! That’s exactly why I’m trying this out.
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Two first person POV characters really sounds like the only logical choice to me…but I guess I do have a thing for breaking the rules…Anyway, I would be highly interested in reading a story told from the POV of two sisters, just because it’s such a complex relationship–two people so similar, yet so unique…I can’t wait to hear how it turns out! 😀
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It’s funny how many people think it’s a great idea when all the research I did on it basically said “don’t do it.” 😂 I can see how it is a big challenge, but I think if I can do it well, it’ll be a story to remember! And thank you, I hope it turns out well! I’ll be updating my progress on the blog here and there, so stay tuned!
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