The Tenth Rule for Writing a Modern Novel

March 19, 2013 at 7:05 am

 Leave Out the Parts Readers Tend to Skip

This is an odd rule. Leave out the parts readers tend to skip. And those would be …? And those would be just about impossible to predict, seeing as everyone is different.

Even in my breakdown of all ten of these rules, my difference of opinion to whoever created them is clear. I like the rule about not including detailed descriptions of places, but I don’t want it to extend to the characters. I want to use verbs other than ‘said’. These are things that matter to me, but clearly, other people have different points of view. So why on earth will we all skip the same things?

I think it’s important for all writers to write something that they would like to read, and in that kind of style, although certainly, rules like these need to be kept in mind. However, I think if we try to conform too much to other people’s guidelines, it can strip our work of its soul. I’m always reminded of Charlotte Bronte, one of my favourite authors. When she wrote Jane Eyre she simply wrote it as she felt it should be. Upon its release, it was instantly popular. However, she came in for a lot of criticism from critics who said that she should have done this or that, or not done this or that. So she bore that in mind when she wrote her second published work, Shirley. It wasn’t nearly as well loved as Jane Eyre, even by the critics. Whatever changes she tried to put into effect on the advice of the critics, they clearly didn’t work for her.

So I think we do need to listen to constructive criticism, but I think authors also need to listen to themselves. No one ever reads the same book as another person – the experience is different for us all – and I think we need to keep an open mind, but trust that someone will enjoy what we have written.