Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Rules are Different for You

Are you Steven King? A bestselling author? Does your name alone cause your books to go flying off the shelves? If not, then this is the post for you.

When you start writing, it can be an amazing experience. You're free to create anything and everything you can imagine. Create worlds, create characters, create stories. But once you venture into the world of publication, you discover the Rules.

I can already see some of you nodding along, and for other beginner writers, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Things like, Don't Overuse Adverbs. Any Dialogue Tag Other Than Said is Unnecessary. Show, Don't Tell. You've probably heard these rules time and time again, and that's because there is truth to them. If you utilize these rules and more, your writing will improve, no doubt about it.

But time and time again I come across new writers who show an example of a famous writer who has broken these rules. And their book is good for it. It can be frustrating, really frustrating, when you've had to change your style to suit these rules and you find writers who are exempt from them.

The sad truth? You are not allowed to break the rules, because you don't have a career backing you.

Publishers don't want to risk on a new author. This is not to say that it's impossible to find a publisher or that no one want to work with you because you have the stigma of being a new author. No. But if a publisher is going to choose between a debut author with a really good book and an established author with a mediocre book but a huge following, they will go with the established author every time. Because even though you've put your heart into it and it's your baby, this is still a business, and at the end of the day editors have to pull it books that will make them money.

So new authors have to follow the rules, because those rules will make your book better. It will groom it to look presentable. And if you've got a good story and awesome characters behind it (As well as impeccable timing, a savvy agent and if you're not a lunatic) you will get an offer.

Once you've sold a book or two, and you've got a following, and the publishing houses trust you, then whip out your rule breaking masterpiece and see if the editor thinks s/he can sell it.

But even then, if you're going to break the rules, have a reason for it. There's a difference between breaking the rules because that's what the story demands and breaking them because you don't like the rules. The first can make your book amazing, if you understand the rules and know how to break them. The second will make you look like a novice and a jackass.

The rules only came about because they are common mistakes that first writers make. And if you want to make a career out of this, you have to learn from them. Just as you should be learning from every book you read, every post you read, and every time you put pen to paper.



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