There are differences between laws, rules and just plain common sense. I’m noticing that a lot of people do not use common sense a lot of the time. And I’m noticing that I’m running out of patience with those people, which is why I tend to lurk on the various boards and loops I belong too, because when I run out of patience I tend to run out of tact too. So, instead of ranting there, I will rant here, where it’s perfectly acceptable to do, since it’s my blog.

I see a lot of conflicting advice (and sometimes even heated arguements) over what the rules of writing romance are. Some authors treat rules like laws which cannot be broken under any circumstances. And yes, sometimes, rules are necessary, but sometimes rules are made to be broken. Laws like ‘stop at red traffic lights,’ are necessary – you will get a ticket or go to jail if it’s not followed. I don’t think you will get arrested if you use one space rather than two after a period in your manuscript or if you switch POVs in the middle of a scene, or even if you head-hop (unless Tami Hoag and Nora Roberts are writing from a cozy jail cell).

Sometimes, what people call rules are more like common sense statements, like, ‘don’t run with scissors,’ or ‘don’t hit someone unless you want to hit back.’ If an agent or a publisher has specific guidelines they ask you to follow, common sense should prevail that you follow those particular rules in those particular circumstances. For instance, one agent asks you to query one project, but of course mention others you’re working on. Makes sense, because who wants a one-hit wonder? Yet, another agent said to focus only on the book you’re trying to sell and that agents don’t necessarily want to know that you have other books. Another agent says to mention if you have any special expertise/knowledge about/in the area you are writing about, while another said you should never say that because it makes you sound as if you can only write about that particular subject and nothing else. Ridiculous? Absolutely. Would I break those rules while querying? More than likely, I wouldn’t bother to query an agent who wrote statements I didn’t believe in. Do you see what I mean about common sense?

People in general need to start thinking for themselves and stop worrying so much that a rule is going to make or break them. I see most of this worrying going on on one particular board that shall remain nameless. One lone person (usually an unpubbed author) will throw out a statement like, ‘you can never use more than one POV per chapter with this publisher.’ Suddenly, it’s canon law guarded rabidly by those too naive or just plain scared to think on their own that maybe things like that don’t make sense. Especially when anyone can pick up a dozen books from said publisher at any one time and discover that this supposed rule/ law is completely false.

Unpublished writers tend to think about things a lot more than editors, agents and published writers. The latter three groups do not have the time to sit and look at a ms and wonder why the submission isn’t in perfect manuscript accordance with one inch margins all around. They might get pissed if you use an unreadable font, purple paper or single-space, but somehow, if you can’t get your computer to give you exactly 25 lines per page, I don’t think that’s going to stop you from getting published if your book is awesome.

Stop worrying about the small stuff and start writing the best book you possibly can. Double space your manuscript, use a 12 point font and try and get bwtween 23 – 25 lines per page. Use white paper. Spell check and proof it well. Spell the editor/agent’s name correctly. Include an SASE. And if you really want to succeed, don’t ever stop trying to push the envelope.

Steph T.