Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Writing Rules?

Last weekend's Colorado Gold Writers Conference (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers) was a ton of fun, however an old pet peeve of mine reared it's ugly head--rules. I had new "rules" spouted at me from both author and agent alike, and it kind of annoyed/amused me.

Now I believe in rules. Basically I'm a rule follower--however I must confess that the rebel in me does long to be the exception at times. Like when I was a new member of RWA . . . I was told that one couldn't break into the women's fiction genre without writing category romance. It just wasn't done. So automatically . . . I decided that I would.

See, I may have started out writing simple romances, but then the story got a little out of control and I kept thinking, "wouldn't it be cool if THIS happened?" and before I knew it, my story was far too complex for a category romance. So I
wrote what I loved and decided to ignore this "rule".

Anyhow, the new rules I heard were . . . are your ready for this? It's unacceptable to use semi-colons in fiction. I was at a read and critique with 7 authors and an editor from Grand Central. One author told me this and another piped up that he too had heard this. Semicolons are not welcome in fiction writing. Ridiculous. The editor reassured me that no one had ever told her this rule and that she still wanted to read my story. I was relieved that it wasn't a deal-breaker.

Then an agent told me my 105,000-word women's fiction novel was too long for a debut novel--editors weren't interested in anything over 85,000 words. News to me. I'd heard that 100,000--110,000 words was more the standard. Actually . . . it's been years since I've heard agents even really paying attention to word counts, but apparently this agent was very concerned about it.

I always tell my Sandy judges to please NOT spout supposed writing "rules", when judging the entries I send them. All we care about for the Sandy is terrific writing. There are ALWAYS exceptions to the "rules"--just about every dang one of them I've ever heard. I'd much rather hear that my use of semicolons bothered that author and she found it distracting or that that agent thought that 105,000 words was too long to tell my story and she thought my writing tended to be repetitive and verbose. Judge MY work, don't spout rules at me, please.

So, have any of you heard any silly new rules lately?
PS--thanks Marne for the picture of some of the CB Writers in attendance.


Sandra Orchard said...

Yup, I've heard the semi-colon one, but I'm not a fan of them so it didn't bother me. But I had an editor tell me they wanted at least 90,000 words for a single title because the spine needs to be a certain width for it to stand out on the shelf, and look like you're getting a decent size book for your money. :)

Theresa said...

Sandra, interesting interesting about the size of wf and the reason. That reason kind of makes sense. The semicolon--not so much. Kaki Warner, historical WF author, claims her Berkley editor always encourages her to write around 120,000 words, I think. Thanks for sharing!

Donnell said...

Oh, gosh, T. So many. I don't know what it is about us writers that when we band together, we stop thinking for ourselves. I've heard don't you dare write a prologue, don't use semicolons. Don't use more than one POV per scene. Limit your POVs in your novel. Don't mix first person with third person. New writers can't do first person... oh my, the list is too long for this blog.

You nailed it, dahling. Write a great book. In The Past Came Hunting, it was 90,000 words. My editor asked for more and the book ended up right around 100K.

Great post and you're not alone. I'm sure there are more writing rules being created as I type this

LD Masterson said...

POV rules are the ones that make me crazy. I think as long as whatever POV you're using works for the story and doesn't confuse the read then it should be good.

Theresa said...

LD, you bring up another good point . . . if something works . . . who cares if it's breaking rules? I wonder if sometimes judges or critiquing authors feel compelled to criticize something and can't simply give praise for fear that they'll be seen as slacking. Just a thought.