do and don't · how to break the rules well · writing problems

Opening scenes: murder

Starting with a murder is common in the thriller/mystery/suspense genres. The kill kicks off the plot. The scene might lead the reader astray with red herrings. It might agonize us because we know things the detectives don’t. Just because it works doesn’t mean you should start with the murder. The murder opening isn’t just a… Continue reading Opening scenes: murder

diversity tips · how to break the rules well · writing problems

Historical accuracy in fantasy

Yesterday I talked about the Tolkien-retelling issue. Let’s go over another common problem: historical comparison. Watch your medieval facts. The Dark Ages weren’t idyllic. Sure, it’s fantasy and you can make stuff up. But why is bronze stronger than steel and horses able to gallop all day long? History buffs will rip you apart unless… Continue reading Historical accuracy in fantasy

do and don't · how to break the rules well · writing problems

Quotes under chapter headings

Starting each chapter with a quote is a frustrating trend among writers. I see multiple manuscripts every day do this. I never read the quotes. I’m reading to get a sense of the writing style and plotting capability. I don’t care about some pretty words the author dreamed up to give voice to historical backstory.… Continue reading Quotes under chapter headings

do and don't · how to break the rules well · writing problems

Gratuitous violence

I have under consideration a horror I love. It breaks all the rules: long sentences, lots of description, As You Know Bob, and telling vs. showing. But it has amazing voice, great suspense, and chilling plot. Edgar Allen Poe is clearly this author’s muse.  Besides murder, the story includes bits of incest, cannibalism, and attempted rape. Intense. Being… Continue reading Gratuitous violence

how to break the rules well · writing problems

A little adverb goes longly

I’m not as against adverbs as Stephen King acolytes are. Adverbs are only adjectives with different grammatical placement. Like all descriptive words, there’s a time and a place. With every adverb, try the sentence without it and see if the sentence’s meaning survives. Every book has some adverbs, but good books have choice ones. (Good… Continue reading A little adverb goes longly

diversity tips · how to break the rules well

Bechdel and other important points

A query today included a paragraph like this one: The way the characters perceive the antagonist shows the many shades of grey along the scale of morality. Some relationships in the book are LGBTQ. It also passes the Bechdel and Mako Mori tests. All three of these explicit mentions are okay to include. The first… Continue reading Bechdel and other important points

how to break the rules well · writing problems

Sacrificing the rules for voice

You can break writing rules in order to add voice. For example, over-description can furnish you with a narcissistic tone: Constance Fullerton readjusted her Maison Michel fedora above her statuesque profile and put her phone on the table, ignoring the words floating up from it. Referencing a brand and her good looks (both unimportant to… Continue reading Sacrificing the rules for voice

do and don't · how to break the rules well · writing problems

Starting with backstory

I received a query for a first-person a narrative whose pages began with the protagonist telling us her backstory. This is something writers aren’t supposed to do. Instead, start with the hook, with something interesting: keep my attention. The first page is the most important. But this time I was thoroughly engrossed and continued reading.… Continue reading Starting with backstory