Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Rule-breaking regrets

I used to be a rule-breaker. When I turned in a manuscript with a prologue and flashbacks and a slew of other thou-shalt-nots, those were in fact my editor's words: "You're quite the rule-breaker" and with a chuckle. At the time I thought, Heck yeah I break all the rules! Rules are meant to be broken.

Here's the thing though, they aren't. Rules exist for a reason.

Can't tell you how many reviews have said that book would have been better without the flashbacks. That the pacing was off, the story was confusing, the characters were not relatable. Was all of that due exclusively to the rule-breaking? Probably not. Probably I did other stupid things well within the boundaries of proper writing craft.

But would the story have been sleeker, more welcoming, a better read if I'd followed the rules? Maybe. At least it would have had a better chance.

I guess, sure, break as many rules as you want. But do not then argue with reviews, even silently in your own mind, when folks tell you it was a mistake.

Now, on the far side of that book and the one that followed it, I'm going back and re-learning the rules. Most of them make sense. And I don't have the audacity anymore to imagine that I'm better than those rules, or that I'm skilled enough to break them and still turn out a good book.

Now and for a while at least, I aim to behave.