Monday, August 5, 2013

Never Say Never

I met a fellow writer yesterday for coffee and after bemoaning the current states of our works in progress we started talking about all the "rules" we were told had to be followed if we ever hoped to become published. The funny thing is nearly all of these rules have been broken and some of them by the best writers in the Romance industry.

Here are a few of the more prominent "Rules" we were told were never to be broken. These words were always delivered in an authoritative, "you're going to kill your writing career before it gets started if you even think about breaking these rules" tone of voice.
  • Never use a hero that plays professional sports.  This goes hand in hand with the rule that your hero should never be a professional musician, artist, or actor.  (I guess no one ever told Susan Elizabeth Phillips (SEP) this rule. She writes some of the best sports playing heroes out there. One of my favorite books is Nobody's Baby But Mine written by SEP. The hero, Cal Bonner, is a professional football player.)
  • Never write in sentence fragments.  My reaction to this statement was, "huh?" We all want to write realistic dialogue. If you listen to people when they speak, they don't always speak in complete sentences. I know I don't. 
  • Never write using first-person point of view.  (I guess no one told Kristan Higgins or Janet Evanovich this rule. Kristan Higgins writes some of the best first person romance novels out there. And while Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series isn't technically romance, there is the romantic triangle between Stephanie, Joe, and Ranger in every one of her books.) I will admit I tried writing in the first-person. It was hard. I kept wanting to go into the hero's point of view.
  • Never head hop or jump from one character's point of view (POV) to another's to another's and back again. I have to agree with this rule. It drives me crazy when I'm in the heroine's POV and then I'm in the hero's, then I'm in the villain's and then I'm back in the heroine's. I feel jumping POVs all the time creates distance between the reader and the hero/heroine. (Of course, Nora Roberts is well known for head hopping but if you can do it as well as she does, I say go for it.)
So in my experience, I've learned to never say the word never when asked about writing advice. If you need to break a rule to tell the best possible story you can tell, then make sure you do it well. I'd love to hear anyone else's rules they were told should never be broken. 


  1. There's head hopping and then there is head hopping. I paid someone to review my novella before I submitted it, and while she was very good, she wasn't a romance writer. She suggested I break all scenes where I went from hero's point of view to heroine's with ***. (Originally in fact, she suggested I take it out.) Then when I started working with my editor at WRP, she explained how head hopping (albeit not too much, at least a page or two between hops) is ok and works in romance - you want both points of view - and how when done right, should not have the *** as separators.

  2. Hi Charlotte,

    I agree that you want both points of view. I guess I should have been more clear in terms of head hopping. I meant changing the point of view from one character to another after each paragraph, mid-paragraph, and sometimes mid-sentence. Thanks for stopping by. :o)

  3. A lot of people write first person these days so that one must be an old rule. Head-hopping doesn't bother me, if I can follow it well enough.

    I don't know what they're talking about on the heroes. I'd far rather read about a musician or an artist hero than more than half the other "professions" that get regularly thrown into novels. There's just something about a man with an artist's heart that gets me every time. *swoons*

    1. Hi Juli,

      The writing in the first person is probably an old rule. I started writing years ago and joined my local RWA chapter at the time. That's where I was informed of the No First Person rule. Unfortunately, the local chapter no longer exists so maybe the "Rule Enforcers" weren't the best people to listen to after all.