Posted by Mary Marvella | 5:02 AM | 2 comments »

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Marvella who learned to read. Other children around her learned to read, but Marvella was different from most of the children. Marvella loved to read so much she could never be seen without her nose in a book.

Well, Marvella read novels, lots of them. She read the classics. Some of the books she read weren't classics then, but they are now.

Marvella loved to tell stories, too. She still tells stories. Now she writes them. She enjoyed writing them until she learned that there so many rules.

Here the fairy tale veers off and the real world intrudes.

Who makes the rules?

Publishers have rules and they are entitled to decide what they will buy. Some rules are stated in their guidelines and some are known only by the editors who offer the contracts we all covet.

Are there other rules? I hear them all the time. They refer to things writers cannot do in their books. Some are made by other writers. They can knock a writer and the fairy tale princess from her tower. They would surely keep a prince from rescuing the princess if the prince doesn't follow those rules.

If you have stories to tell, you can try to learn all the rules or you can tell your stories the way you need to tell them.

What if you are one of the writers whose stories and styles don't fit the rules? Learn who made the rules. It the rules are publisher or genre rules, follow them or you won't sell to those publishers or in that genre.

If the rules are made by other writers, you should do with them what you can. You might consider them suggestions. Some can be helpful and strengthen your writing while others will stifle you.

Keep in mind that not all readers like to read the same books or the same authors. I say this because I am a reader as well as a writer. Write what you like to read. If your goal is about selling, you need to spend more time learning the rules and how you can follow them. Just be sure the rules are made by people who can publish your books.

If you write because you have stories you must tell, write them. Keep looking for the publisher who sells the kind of stories you like to write. Trends come and go. The books you can't sell today might fit a new trend in the future or even break ground for a new trend.

Keep in mind that we write stories for readers and for ourselves.

I am still a reader and I don't read by rules.


  1. Beth Trissel // March 9, 2008 at 8:56 AM  

    I learned about these rules after I entered my first RWA chapter contest following the completion of the first draft (didn't realize that then either) of my first historical romance, Red Bird's Song (which recently won the Gotcha). One bemused judge, who was infinitely patient with me, wrote, "You broke every rule."
    Baffled, I said, "There's rules?" Got to smile now. Not then.

  2. Misc. Muse // March 12, 2008 at 1:00 PM  

    Sometimes there ought not be any rule- that isn't a way to tell the story. I am glad there are no rules about what to read. I read mostly historical novels but sometimes I go in children's room and get a novel. My son was here Sat. reading a Science Fiction novel- that usually isn't my cup of tea but this book looked good- I am reading it after he gets done.