Fiction Writing and
Rule Breaking

Remember all those grammar rules in school?

Well say good-bye to many of them! We're talking fiction writing in the 21st century, and plenty of those rules have gone out the window. (Do remember to duck when walking past writers' windows. Never know when they're going to toss out another rule!)

So how is writing fiction different from writing non-fiction? Why can we break rules we wouldn't dare screw up when writing "real" stuff?

Well, in fiction, you're usually intending to sound like life. How many people do you know who speak only in complete sentences, with pauses (read that commas) in all the correct places, and never a sentence ending a preposition with?

Right. If you're that good at lying, you must be a fiction writer.

I don't know anyone either.

Complete Sentence Myths

Take me, for instance. I can't get a decent sentence out half the time unless I write it down and revise it. Most people don't have the patience for talking to me in that fashion.

But then most don't pay that much attention to how I'm speaking, because they're speaking the same way. In "non"-sentences (otherwise known as sentence fragments). And sentences that run on and on with more than one idea in them because they think of something else they just have to say when they haven't finished what they were saying in the first place (gasp, gulp, pant...).

And until I learned to shut off the grammar checker in my word processing program, my stuff used to look like Christmas! Little green squigglies all over and tangled into the little red squigglies of "misspellings" (usually my character's names). Yeah, I break plenty of those rules, too.

But don't break rules just for the sake of breaking rules in your story writing. If you make it hard enough to read, no one's going to read it. And isn't that the point of writing a novel in the first place?

So creative writing can break some rules (why else call it "creative"?). But if you're going to create good fiction books, you do have to follow some rules, and avoid any common fiction writing mistakes.

A Grammar Goody-Two-Shoes Learns to Break Rules!

One of the best bits of writing advice is to READ. Read great fiction books in every genre. Read general fiction books (often called mainstream). Read articles on fiction writing. (Writer's Digest Magazine always has good articles on everything from short story writing to novel writing to marketing. I highly recommend you get a subscription to it.)

Read books on writing, too. Be specific by genre, if you intend to write for a genre. For example, if you want to write for children, read books and articles about childrens writing. And read childrens fiction. So you know what's out there and don't use the same old tired stories.

Not sure what form of fiction you want to write? How about a fiction forms overview? There are books out there that go into structures and styles of fiction so you can try to match your talents with one that suits you best.

Maybe you feel like you need more help than that. You could try fiction software. While I've never tried any myself, there are times I almost wish I had some. Such as when I'm stuck on a particular plot point. I think they're set up where you input your main characters and basic storyline and they prompt you with ideas and twists you hadn't thought of.

If you're still a student, or want to go back to school to learn to write better, you can search for writing scholarships online. Or go to workshops and conferences to rub elbows with editors and authors. Some of it's sure to rub off. (Is that why my sleeve is so sticky?)

My favorite way to create the best fiction writing is to practice, practice practice. And read, read read. I love to read, so the second isn't a problem.

I also love to write, so that's rarely an issue either. I tend to write something everyday (even if it's only a goofy e-mail to a friend). Everything you write helps you hone your skills as a fiction writer.

If you think writing fiction is hard, maybe I can help make fiction writing demystified for you, and you'll have as much fun at it as I do.

I sure hope so, because that's why I'm here. So, let's jump in and break a few of those rules while we're at it!

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