>It’s the Rules, Writer

>There are advantages to going last in the blog rotation. That way if you haven’t had time to write a post, you’ve got a little extra time to post. So thus begins my current blog. I’ve nothing to write about…no wait, I remember a topic that popped into my head when Cathy posted about loops and people advising newbies.So here’s my advice FWIW…

Memorize The Rules

First off, it’s important to clarify what are “rules” and what are guidelines. Everything is a guideline.

Rule 1 – ALWAYS know your grammar rules. You cannot succeed in your craft without the book being legible. Know the difference between effect and affect (don’t ask me, I have to look it up every time. *grin*) But even this is smoke and mirrors because I’ve had editors remove semi-colons and commas to keep readers from tripping over breaks. Remember guideline!

Rule 2 – Know who’s POV your in and then only switch that POV every chapter. Then forget this rule. It’s a guideline. If you do something well (head hop) then all is forgiven.

Rule 3 – Make sure your Chapter heading starts exactly 2.5 inches from the top of a page. Ummm, remember when I said there are rules and there are guidelines. This is a guideline, and submitting a book with a heading placement at 2.25 or 3 inches is not a deal breaker. Worry about the content. While this rule is still a guideline, it’s pretty reasonable to expect that your manuscript should be delivered to an agent/editor in a general format of 1-in margins and a reasonable heading starting a few lines from the top of the paper. Want some help with this one? Check out the article I wrote for newbies (Here). I’ve never been rejected by an editor because of formatting, although I did have a judge measure from the top of the page to where my heading started. I was off by a quarter of an inch according to her comments. Give me a break! No–BREAK the damn rule!

Rule 4 – One inch margins are standard pretty much across the board. HOWEVER, if you’re entering a contest and you need to get that last two paragraphs of a chapter on page 55, use the margin of .85 or .9, it’s really hard to tell that your margins are off that one inch mark if you use .85 or .9. And if a judge does measure the margins, and docks you, know this. They would have gone out of their way to find something else nitpicky anyway. So you’d be screwed no matter what.

Rule 5 – Contests are crapshoot. You can enter one and win first place with your manuscript in front of an editor. OTOT, you can enter a different contest and not even final. I’ve entered about 10-15 contests. I finaled in three. The books I finaled with did not sell to New York. Something entirely else did. Contests should never be used as a reasonable expectation of a critique. The feedback you get can run the gamut. Unless you get the same kind of feedback from three or more judges, toss the commentary aside because it’s rarely useful. Don’t forget this rule, just know that the aforementioned statements are guidelines.

Rule 6 – Never, never, under any circumstances, use any other font BUT Courier 12pt. Forget this rule, it’s a guideline. In fact, “most” publishers now prefer Times New Roman 12pt. Right, forget that rule too, instead, try reading the publisher guidelines. That’s the authoritative word, not another writer.

Rule 7 – The number of pages per chapter should be 20 pages and no more. Forget this rule, it’s a guideline. While you don’t want to let a chapter drag on for 40 pages, if you go over 20 it’s not a deal breaker. Nor is it a deal breaker to have short chapters of 3, 2 or 1 pages. A chapter is as long as it needs to be. Write it that way and forget the rules.

Rule 8 – Never, NEVER, write a prologue. Readers hate them and they’re just a way to put in back story. Forget this rule. It’s a guideline. It is possible to provide a prologue that reveals something crucial to the plot that can’t be shown in Chapter 1. But it’s a guideline.

Rule 9 – Always show versus tell. Narrative is bad, very, very bad. Umm, forget this rule. It’s a guideline. Sometimes you can’t do anything else BUT tell. Again, it’s a guideline. It’s far better to show something than tell, but there will be times when telling is pretty much the best way to go.

Rule 10 – NEVER, EVER follow Rules 1- 9. They’re guidelines, not rules. The sooner a writer recognizes that something isn’t a rule, but a guideline, the better off they are.

Forget The Damn Rules

Oh, wait, there is ONE great rule to follow.

Write the good book (thank you Claire Delacroix/Deb Cook for those four words of wisdom).

Now go forth and break rules

This entry was posted in Contests, Craft, Misc, Writing by Monica Burns. Bookmark the permalink.

About Monica Burns

A bestselling author of erotic romance, Monica Burns penned her first short romance story at the age of nine when she selected the pseudonym she uses today. From the days when she hid her stories from her sisters to her first completed full-length manuscript, she always believed in her dream despite rejections and setbacks. A workaholic wife and mother, Monica believes it’s possible for the good guy to win if they work hard enough.

2 thoughts on “>It’s the Rules, Writer

  1. >Thanks for posting Shelley. I can empathize with the “was” issue. I got caught in that trap thinking every was meant the sentence was passive. It helped when I turned on the grammar checker in Word. LOL

  2. >Great post, Monica. You have to wonder who makes up some of these rules. I’ve had some interesting comments from judges in contests and one of my friends had every single “was” circled in her entry. Passive, you know! 😉