Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Writing for the Faint of Heart: The Writing Rules

You ever heard the expression, “Give them an inch and they think they’re a ruler”? I love that tongue in cheek expression. It’s telling you it’s okay to stand your ground. But in order to be respected, you must know and understand the what, why and how behind your stand. Teenagers often do this. They make a stand based on their very limited experience, but they don’t know that they don’t know, which can cause clashes with the more informed adults in their life. Ahem. 

The same holds true in writing. In writing there are rules you must know and understand. What you do with them beyond that is your business, but by then you will know whether or not following a rule truly works in your writing. 

Let’s start defining what the rules are, one by one, then we’ll go into more detail about each rule by giving examples. First up, POV, or Point of View.

Point of View is the first writing rule I encountered. I still recall struggling to understand the concept, I mean, why should it matter who is talking when? But too many characters in a scene can muddy the visuals and derail the reader’s ability to keep track of which character knows what about whom.
A LaTisha Barnhart Mystery #3

So POV is all about making the story easier to follow. It clarifies point of view by sticking to one view within a single scene. In romance, for example, there are generally only two POVs--that of the hero and heroine. The action and narrative would be filtered through his POV (what he knows, sees and understands to be true) in one scene, the heroine’s in the next scene. 

Already I can hear young writers howling about the authors (multi-published, best-selling authors even!) who have multiple POVs within a single scene (generally called head-hopping). Remember though, I didn’t say it couldn’t be done and done well. The point is you should know the rule and be able to write according to the rule, before you make the conscious decision to break it for the well-being of your story.  

Next Week: Writing for the Faint of Heart--How to Stay in POV as You Write

S. Dionne Moore is a multipublished author. Her tenth book, A Heartbeat Away, a historical romance set in Sharpsburg, Maryland during the battle of Antietam, releases from Abingdon Press May 2013. Cozy mysteries include, Murder on the Ol' BunionsPolly Dent Loses Grip and Your Goose is Cooked.


  1. Sandra--Thanks for sharing that. Too many people seem to ignore the rule right off the bat. I say, study the craft of writing (study to show yourself approved) and really work hard at your manuscript before you seek to be published traditionally or indie. You want to stand by what you've written in the years to come, instead of uttering a **sigh** when somebody mentions your first book.
    And I agree, there are NYTimes Bestselling Authors who break the rules, but they can BECAUSE they're NYTimes Bestselling Authors...

  2. I agree with Linda. A writer who studies the craft of writing should make a better author. That said, my learning has come from doing. The upside is I remember new concepts I come across better when I incorporate them into my work; the downside is I suffer at the hands of reviewers who point out my lack of knowledge.

    School is out of the question at this point in my life. What I can do, however, is to take opportunities to improve my writing style as they present themselves. My writers guild, excellent posts on this blog and others are wonderful resources.

    Thanks Sandra!

    ~Nancy Jill Thames
    Author of the Jillian Bradley Mysteries
    "Queen of Afternoon Tea"