Skip to main content

Forget the supposed 'writing' rules and write a great story!

Yesterday I read a post on writing a great book…

You know those posts... The type that attempt to teach you all the things we learned in Comp-1 about punctuation and sentence structure, and then the dynamics of writing a story that we learned in Comp-2, where we read all the great works of literature throughout the ages. Yep, that stuff.

I’m sorry, but if you don’t know that you need to insert a comma before a direct address, no writing post on the World Wide Web is going to help you write a great book.

Of course the post also included all the other stuff that ‘professionals’ throw at aspiring writers:

Don’t use prologues
Don’t use adverbs
Never use a dialog tag other than said
Never use ‘asked’ as a dialog tag
Never use ‘had’ in non-dialog writing
Don’t sigh or huff your words
Never write in first person
Blah, blah, blah

So, being the curious author that I am, I decided to download samples of the top ten books on Amazon and took the time to read the first chapter of each one.

Surprise—well, maybe not, or you wouldn’t have seen this post—almost every one of the authors broke at least one of those ‘rules’ stated above, and several of them, broke EVERY rule.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm still learning too! Top selling authors don’t have the time to write these posts, as they are too busy writing WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ! But I know this...all the writing suggestions in the world can't save a boring book.

My opinion, other than the normal 'grammar' rules that you learned in grade school, forget the supposed 'writing' rules and just write a great story!

I know some will disagree with me, but it’s true. None of the books on the bestseller lists are there because they didn’t use ‘hopefully’ in their prose; they are there because readers liked the story. If we all wrote the exact same way, with the exact same rules, what fun would that be? It wouldn't be fun at all. I like different types of storytelling. There's a reason we have an author's voice.

Long story short, all the rule following in the world won't sell more books. The only way you will sell MORE books is by writing a better story and writing more of them.

Then, just like the first snow, eventually a snowflake will stick, then another, then another, then another, until you have enough flakes sticking that you have a winter wonderland in your backyard.

Yes, you need to edit your books. Editing is not the point of this post. But, write a great story before you start worrying about all the other specifics.

Until next time, happy reading and writing!


Thank you for stopping by my place and reading my musings. Remember, these are just my opinions and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section, and I promise you I will answer.  If you’re curious about what I write, please visit one of my author pages, where you can read all about my novels and short stories. And hey, I’ll even give you a free book just for stopping by.

If it isn’t available free in your area, use…


  1. Thank you! I know I've probably been creating enemies by saying there are no absolutes and do what's right for the story. Glad to know there's someone that thinks like I do. lol

    1. I do...

      It took me eighteen months to sell my first novel because I wouldn't bend on the prologue. It's what I wanted. Yes, it's different, but, it's how I wanted to *show* my story. I didn't want to do what everyone else was doing.

      Over a hundred thousand downloads later, I believe I made the right choice. It's not like the other books, and readers recognize that. Oh, some will still hate me; as you said, we make enemies when we go against the grain. But...I will continue to write what I believe my readers want to read. And as Frank Sinatra said, "I did it my way..." LOL! Thank for stopping by and commenting, CP. :)

  2. Great writers write great stories. I do agree with those who say you need to understand the rules before you break them, but in the end, if you're writing from your heart and telling a great story, readers will gobble it up. As for commas and too many adverbs and all those other rules, well, that's why editors like me work with creative writers like you. I love helping writers polish a story to a point where the reader gets so caught up in it that he/she doesn't even think about whether or not rules were broken.

    1. Absolutely! And you did read that I wasn't bashing editing, right? Of course books need editing. To me, that's a given. I loved Christine's post with all those famous authors who used those *horrible* prologues...the nerve!

      And adverbs serve a purpose. Their purpose, however, is not to tell the story; the author is supposed to do that. My thoughts are that if it sounds natural, use it! If you can imagine the character rolling his eyes, by all means, let them roll their eyes. If they wouldn't know who versus whom, you better rewrite that sentence. No, I don't think you should use the wrong word; rewrite the sentence so it never comes into question. I had a character once who would never have known when to use I or me, and the situation came up where she should have said, 'he and I' not 'he and me'. I couldn't do it. I couldn't write 'me' when I knew it was 'I'. So...I rewrote the sentence. Problem solved! That's the difference. Authors need to know that it's not about just writing well. Fixing the grammar wouldn't have moved my story along, and using the wrong word would have earned me a poor review.

      Yes, grammar came into play. Because I knew the rules, I veered around them to stay in character. :)

  3. Yep. Rules in writing aren't like rules in, say, baseball; they're much more flexible. Knowing when to break them is as important as knowing what they are.

    1. Exactly! I'm glad I found your post today. I followed, so I'll be looking out for more great posts. Hope the book is coming along great, since I see you were picked up over a year ago. And yes, I've used waking up from a nightmare in one of my books, and it was perfect. For me, anyway, and I have to do what's right for *my* story. :)

  4. Interestingly, I didn't know all of these rules. Funnily enough, several of these have been quoted to me in the past year by writers I met on Twitter. Ignorant of many of these rules, I began reading my favourite authors' work in a new light. Did they break the rules? You bet! Are they sold in 44 countries and translated in 25? Yep! I am with you, Carmen!

    1. Thank you, Susan. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. amazes me how often I see those types of posts. I understand that new authors are looking for direction, so I don't begrudge anyone for trying to help. BUT...if a prologue works, use it! If--as YA Guy mentioned above--a character waking up is the way to start a story, by all means, write your heart out. That goes for passive writing, using contractions and split infinitives, and starting your sentences with 'and' or 'but'. These are not hard-fast rules; they are suggestions. So if your prose is riddled with them, yes, you have an issue. On the other hand, though, if it sounds unnatural to write in active tense or without using a split infinitive, you better not do it. All that matters is that the reader 'gets' it. Trust me...I learned the hard way. :) Thanks for stopping by, my friend.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

"As in any fairytale, everything good must come to an end." ENTANGLED DREAMS:

Now, if you’ve read any of my novels or excerpts, you know I don’t do happy-go-lucky beginnings; and as in any fairytale, a little rain must fall, or in the case of my stories, I prefer a monsoon. This week’s excerpt: But alas, as in any good fairytale, everything good and wonderful must come to an end. After the tragic accident that snatched her mother away from Alexandra, her father moved them away from the beaches of Destin to another beach in Florida. Cocoa Beach. Cocoa Beach was loud, the water murky, and there were no weekend adventures as there had been in Destin. Her father married her evil stepmother, Lilith, who Alexandra was certain was a witch with her long, black as midnight hair and pale-white skin as if she’d never seen sunlight. Her father had admitted he wasn’t in love with Cruella, as she had come to think of the witchy woman, but that he’d wanted Alexandra to have a mother and siblings. Well, she definitely got that. The k

To prologue or not to prologue, that is the question. Readers, please weigh in!

Personally, I love prologues. They get you right into the action whether it was in the past or something exciting that is to come. But that’s exactly why most agents’ blogs I’ve read say not to use them. Paraphrasing…“If you need a prologue, then your story must not be strong enough…” Hmm … well, I like them, and I use them. But I’m curious what readers think, and I’d love you to weigh in. AND, if you have some great examples, please leave the title in the comment section. Now … here’s what I’ve noticed. Plenty of bestselling books have used them, even though they aren’t always called prologues . Same diff in my opinion. My biggest example is ‘Twilight’. If that little blurb wasn’t in the beginning, I don’t think I would have made it through the first chapter. How about movies? I don’t watch a lot. But I’ve started to notice how many have “prologues”. I also don’t have cable, but I have NetFlix, and hubby has just started watching ‘Breaking Bad’. Okay … I

The rule of thirds: No matter what you do, someone will hate you. Get over it and Write On!

No matter what you do in life, a third of the people will love you, a third will hate you, and the rest will be indifferent. Get over it and Write On! Yes, I'm talking to myself. If you're listening, GREAT! It's good advice! Is it easy advice? Heck No! For some reason, even though that percentage is rather low on my books--the percentage of people who hate my books runs about 4.6%--it still hurts.  Note: I only averaged the 'firsts' in my books, the books I actively promote. Because if I go to the second, third, and fourth books in my series, those numbers drop drastically. Obviously, if readers don't like my first book, they don't go on to the rest of my books in a series, so those books receive little to zero one-star reviews. So...if the number of one-star reviews we receive is less than five percent--Thank God ALL of the 33 1/3% of the haters don't write reviews--why do we get so depressed when we receive a one-star review