My Mind Has Blown

Last week, I talked about word-of-mouth and two books that topped the AAR Annual Poll. So, as promised, last week I started to read If His Kiss Is Wicked by Jo Goodman.

So now my mind is blown. I’m on page 152–152!!–and the hero and heroine have not had any sexual contact, not a kiss, even!

AND Jo Goodman has a few sections that seem to be in double point-of-view at the same time, in other words, you can hear both sides of the h/h’s brain. Double Mind-Blowing!

Common wisdom, by which I mean every single writers’ workshop, says the current trend is to have sex, or a sexual encounter, within about the first ten pages. Also, agents and editors and writers will all warn about multiple POVs, following it up with the Nora Caveat, by which they mean “Nora Roberts has multiple POVs, but she can do it, you can’t.”

And this book got tied for the Best Romance in 2007?!? Yow! I don’t argue as to its merit, it is excellent, and compelling, and has intriguing characters and a great set-up, etc., but I am amazed that a book that broke two of the most steadfast Romance Writing Rules won.

So, yay! Yay for Rule-breakers! Yay for Adventurous Readers! And for you Adventurous Readers, what rule do you like to see broken? For Adventurous Writers, what rules do you like to break?

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14 years ago

Wow… haven’t read Jo’s book yet, but that does sound pretty mind-blowing! I’m not sure what kinds of rules I like broken in the books I read–I’ll think on it and get back to you 🙂

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

Okay, now I have to go out and read this book Megan. I love books that break the rules like both Janet/Jane’s books. I’ve always believed that if the plot were interesting enough and the writing was compelling, a writer can break the rules all over the place.

Deb Marlowe
14 years ago

This one is in my TBR, Megan, now you’ve really got me wanting to read it.

No, no,..must…write….

14 years ago

I am with my buddy, Yankee Lady (Deb) I really want to read this one, but I NEED TO WRITE!!!! I don’t have a problem with breaking the rules if it is done for a reason and not just for the sake of breaking a rule. If a book is well-written, exciting and does not confuse me I am a happy camper!

Cara King
14 years ago

I guess for me, there are rules, and then there are rules. (And who can argue with that? It’s too vague!) 🙂

IMHO: yes, romances need sexual tension — but it doesn’t have to come from kissing or making out or from the heroine thinking “oh boy I can imagine him running his hands over me *here*” or the hero thinking “boy I bet her lips would taste good.”

After all, P&P has sexual tension in spades!

So, anyway, the way I think about “there are rules, and then there are rules” = yes to sexual tension, but having kissing by page x is not necessary.

Ditto for just about anything else. Yes, one needs conflict and tension in a story — but there are a LOT of ways to get it. And if an author can make the story a page-turner without having revealed the hero & heroine’s internal & external GMC by page 10 (or 50 or 300), then more power to her!

And you know, I think of lot of these “rules” were more talked about than ever followed. e.g. my Regency had no Almack’s, no dancing, no shopping or modistes or makeovers — but the same can be said of SO many traditional Regencies! And I used to roll my eyes when some would say a trad had to have *all* the common trad elements, e.g. dancing, carriages, Almack’s, the phrase “a diamond of the first water,” lobster patties that get “snabbled up” — okay, I’m joking here! 🙂 Anyway, I think very few Regencies ever had *all* those elements anyway, but folks made imaginary rules about them…

Gosh, I’ve gotten so sidetracked here, sorry! I think what I’m trying to say is that often the “rules” are made up by folks who don’t really understand the whole thing, in an attempt to understand it.


Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Cara, that was my thought exactly. P&P doesn’t have any love scenes, but there is sexual tension galore.

I see the demand for sex by chapter 3 as a trend, not a rule.

I think there are very good reasons for most writing “rules.” Most of the time they are elements of good writing or good plotting or good characterization. But as long as you have good writing, plotting and characterization, you can deviate from doing it the conventional way.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Everyone who hasn’t read this book by Jo Goodman, please do read it. Then run out and get Joanna Bourne’s newest release. Prepare for your mind to be blown again.

Write first, read later, Deb, but put the reading on your schedule so you’ll get to it.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Well, I think the only real rule in popular fiction is to write a book that will entertain at least some readers. Most readers don’t know the rules. They only know if they enjoyed the book, or if it bored, confused or annoyed them.

All of our detailed writing rules come from our ideas of how to entertain the reader and avoid boring, confusing or annoying her. But we make errors in translation. “Many readers like a sexy book” turns into “boinking must begin within X pages” and “Readers like to be clear about whose head we’re in” becomes “no head-hopping”.

It’s important to know what’s actually behind the rule and not follow it simplistically.

OTOH I’ve known aspiring writers who wanted to pretend they were being wildly original, “breaking all the rules”, when in reality they were just stubbornly persisting in making Newbie Writer Error #35.

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

Tense, voice, narrative/linear form, language–and that’s for starters.

I’ve always believed that if the plot were interesting enough and the writing was compelling, a writer can break the rules all over the place.

Well said, Elizabeth (and thanks).

14 years ago

I am all for rule breaking but as an aspiring author I feel paralyzed by the very rules that are supposed to make me a better writer.

Please someone throw me a bone. It’s got to get better/easier. Right?

Come on, lie if you have to!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I am all for rule breaking but as an aspiring author I feel paralyzed by the very rules that are supposed to make me a better writer.
Please someone throw me a bone. It’s got to get better/easier. Right?
Come on, lie if you have to!

No, lie, Santa.
Only listen to the rules that help you write. If anything stops you, then ignore it. Trust yourself. I think if you have the desire to write and know the essentials (like what a sentence is) you can successfully tell a story.

Write it your way. If head-hopping is the way you see a story, write it that way. If it makes more sense to stick to one POV per scene, do it that way. If your hero and heroine don’t meet until page 100, write it that way. Use adverbs, passive voice, whatever.

Just write it. You can fix it later, but only fix what seems wrong to YOU. YOU decide, nobody else.

I think you have to silence those voices shouting the RULES at you and just enjoy telling the story you want to tell.

I think the single most thing that has helped me the most is to trust my own judgment about my story. I will listen to feedback from critique partners, in years past from contest judges, but only when it made sense to me.

Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from writing, if that is what you want to do.

14 years ago

Thanks Diane! I am going to print that out. My CP has been saying the same thing to me for a while now. I’ve shut out most of the voices especially since I’ve read some things lately that have gotten published and thought – Now, how did that happen?

Cara King
14 years ago

I does get easier, Santa! I remember the first novel I wrote, I felt I was at the mercy of the sentences — they were the boss, and I sort of had to fit things around them. But after a while I sort of “got in shape” as far as writing went — I was definitely the boss of the sentences, and they would do whatever I darn well pleased.

(Okay, not sure that will make any sense to anyone — sorry!)

It’s like learning a sport or a type of dance — the specific muscles needed for the activity get much stronger & more limber with practice, and a lot of it becomes as normal as breathing — so then one can focus one’s attention on the hard bits, or the new bits, because the normal bits are now just so easy to do…

Also, when I was newer, it was just so hard to judge my own writing — so hard to tell if something worked, or was any good! (Very common with newer writers and actors — you see/hear what went on in your head when you did it, rather than the actual product…) But eventually, I got past that, too, and I could read what I’d written and have a pretty good idea what worked and what didn’t, which bits were funny and which were self-indulgent, etc…

And, yes — best not to get bogged down in “rules” at the beginning anyway! I think “rules” work best in diagnosing a problem, not in seeing if a problem is there…if that makes sense…


Megan Frampton
14 years ago

You guys took my sorta lame post and went to town! Thanks, all! I will keep all the rules to be broken in mind when I get back to writing.

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