Writing Rules?

We all know there are some pretty basic and unwavering rules when it comes to writing.

Rules are necessary. Imagine a world with no stop signs or red lights. Traffic would be a mess!

We know that correct grammar and punctuation is a must. Avoid overusing adverbs (ly) words. Avoid telling words such as see, hear, feel, touch. Don’t write long run-on sentences – the shorter the better. Avoid crutch words like, just, really, well and very. Show don’t tell is a biggie! And then there is Point of View. And, that’s what I want to talk about today.

The basic rule for Point of View, in a third-person story, is that you don’t switch points of view in the middle of a scene. Right? Stay in one person’s POV throughout the scene and then you can get inside another person’s head in the next scene. They call it head-hopping if you do. BUT… you know what they say about that word – everything before it means nothing.

What if you pick up a book that switches POV in the middle of a scene, but the story is so riveting and gripping, you notice, but don’t care?

That happened to me this week.

I read a book that came highly recommended by several avid readers I know and they were absolutely right about it. Where The Crawdads Sing is a debut novel written by Delia Owens.

This book has (as of today) 3,871 reviews on Amazon. Wow! It is #1 on Amazon this week and it has shot Delia Owens to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list for nineteen weeks in a row. It was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin. As you well know that is pretty much the top of the heap of the Big 5 Publishers.

That publishing company has a team of staff editors who work with every manuscript on various levels. So, it made me wonder if the POV rule that has been pounded into us going away? Or is the key to bending the rule, writing a story that is so compelling that even the editors don’t care about sticking to the POV rule?

Could it be that the influx of Indie Authors who tend to bend the rules anyway, cause a change of thinking about certain writing rules? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

In the meantime, I’m not going to write a review for this book, but I am going to say that it is such a compelling story, I won’t forget it for a very long time.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

#1 New York Times Bestseller
A Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick

“I can’t even express how much I love this book! I didn’t want this story to end!”–Reese Witherspoon

“Painfully beautiful.”–The New York Times Book Review

“Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver.”–Bustle

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

39 thoughts on “Writing Rules?

  1. Jan I’m so glad you featured this book. I truly truly am in book hangover. Here’s my review on it. I’m so glad you read it and loved it.

    This book is silver screen worthy!!!
    What an amazing gift Ms Delia Owens has given humanity.
    A powerful book laced with heartache, tough times, and a willingness to survive & conquer life to the fullest.
    I will forever be thankful I read this masterful novel. It will remain in my heart and very soul for all time.
    Kya weaved herself into my heart and will forever remain, especially when fireflies light the night.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tonya, you told me about this book and after I read your review I had to get it. You are so very right! For me, this story changed the landscape of my soul. Like you, it’s forever woven into my DNA and I believe it will one day become a classic equal to the power of To Kill a Mockingbird.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Certain rules are meant to be broken. Certain artists can break them. The best example is Fifty Shades of Gray. I think if a story is compelling enough the reader could care less about head hopping or telling not showing. Great post, Jan.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I absolutely loved this book! A book that youth should read to see how great they have it. A book youth should read to understand that prejudices and bullying are just beyond wrong. A book for all to get back in touch with empathy. A book for all to learn to cherish the people in the lives and the things they have, to just be grateful. I never even considered any author no-no’s while reading this book so I’m thinking that since it was such a great story that the writer rules just fell by the wayside. Your blog reminded me of why I can’t be an author. I suck at all the grammar rules. Lol I could probably come up with a great story but someone else would have to write it for me. Great blog!! Happy New Year!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it’s important to learn the rules, then treat them as guidelines. I’ve done the intentional head-hop before. My crit group didn’t even notice until I pointed it out. It was the best way to relay the story at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jan, this book was so beautifully written that switching POV was unimportant. Delia Owens has an unbelievable gift of making you care. You can’t look away, you can’t close the book. It’s impossible. The way she puts words together and the words she chooses are like poetry. That was what struck me first before I ever met Kya and her story began to unfold. “Marsh is not a swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long-legged birds lift with unexpected grace–as though not built to fly–against the roar of a thousand snow geese.”

    Sheer poetry. Man, I wish I could write like that! She infuses atmosphere and emotion into each word. This will forever remain a part of me–of my DNA. Words are inadequate to describe the beauty and heartbreak of this story.

    Sometimes rules don’t matter. When you put the right words together, infused with beauty and emotion, you don’t care. The story becomes too riveting. However…my editor would insist on keeping the POV rule. Maybe it’s only in literary fiction where editors relax? I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right, sister. Her descriptions throughout the book are nothing short of pure poetry woven deeply with emotions. And this book is affecting millions based on the number of weeks it’s been at the top of the NY Times Bestseller list! Thanks so much for your comment and for showing folks a sample of her descriptive writing! Maybe you’re right about literary fiction. Who knows, but as we have all agreed, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was turning the next page! I love you!

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  6. I haven’t heard of this book, but will have to add it to my reading list Jan! Good question about POV. I just started a story and found myself needing to go back and forth between first and third which I’ve never done before. There was no other way to do it though. I guess in the end the story decides what is needed and I’m glad we are getting more freedom to express this. Its hopeful indies have inspired mainstream books:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Indies have influenced mainstream books in lots of ways. I’ve never tried to bounce back and forth between first and third person. What a challenge! I can’t wait to read it. If you do pick this book up, I can guarantee you will love it as much as I did! Wish I could get credit at RRBC for a review. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What an interesting discussion about POV, Jan. I haven’t read the book and can’t comment on how the POV works. Is it third-person doing some head-hopping or is it omniscient? I guess it shows that this rule can be bent/broken, especially if the rest of the writing is fabulous. Personally, if I “notice” anything that pops me out of the story, it detracts from my immersion in the book. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Actually, you bring up a great point, Diana. The story is told from multiple points of view, but one scene in particular that struck me as breaking the POV rule was at the police station. The chapter opens in two officers’ POV, then a woman walks in and we see the coffee with drips down the side and general messiness through her POV. Then it switched right back to the two officers. As I said in my post, I saw scenes like that but was so engrossed in the book, I didn’t care. 🙂 Thank you SO much for your comment!

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  9. I’ve been eyeing this book up for a while now, and will probably take the plunge. Everything I hear about it is spectacular. I just hope I’m not disappointed because of all the hype (like Gone Girl), but it keeps creeping up higher on my TBR. The title alone is so compelling!

    I’m pretty much a stickler when it comes to POV, but that’s because it’s been drilled into my head for so long. I’ve also noticed that a lot of big 5 authors don’t stick to the same rules as those in the trenches, but they’ve been doing that for decades. Usually if I notice something (like head-hopping) in a book, it will pull me from the story. I’m still looking forward to reading this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mae Clair- I promise it’s a fantastic book. I’ve read some of the hyped up books and was left disappointed, but not with Whete The Crawdads Sing, it was my favorite book in 2018.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you for the recommendation. I;m going to be adding it to my read list, and will hopefully be able to enjoy it during the month of February (I have a few other titles I have to read first).

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    2. Hi, Mae! I give you my personal guarantee that you will enjoy this story! I believe it is destined to be a classic – it’s that good. You are right. Rules are different in the trenches, but then it’s always been that. Diana brought up a good point that I hadn’t thought of with the Omniscient POV writing. Perhaps that is what this author is doing. I don’t know. I’ll be waiting for your feedback once you read it! Thanks for the comment! Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Omniscient POV is my favorite when it’s done correctly, so that’s another reason for me to read it. I hoping I can get to it before February is out. I have a few more ahead of it, but I’m looking forward to it!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. If a book breaks a rule and it makes you put the book down, then the author shouldn’t have broken it. If a book breaks a rule and you don’t care, then that author has done a great job.

    I haven’t read this one, but it sounds like it affected you in a profound way. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally and completely agree, Staci. And, Diana brought up a good point that I hadn’t thought of and that is the Omniscient POV, which may what Delia Owens was doing. At any rate, this book is one that will linger with me for years. I hope they make a movie, and there is talk. Anyway, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment! Have a great Monday!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Jan, first you’ve sold me on this book! I’ve nver heard of it but obviously a hit with so many incredible reviews!

    As for the POV situation. I find it annoying when the POV changes mid chapter, hopping back and forth between the characters. Yet, like you, I recently made an exception and read a book that did this the whole way through … because it was superb book and in the end I got used to the broken rule. The book was Little Fires Everywhere!

    The funny thing about this rule is that in my first draft of my novel, I did this mind hopping without realising it so had to rewrite! Maybe I should have kept it in?! 😀 Great quote at the end and not surprised it’s from Picasso!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol, Annika. That is funny about the first draft of your novel. I did the exact same thing without realizing what I was doing (of course I was a novice) and published it like that. It wasn’t until a kind author posted a review that they loved the story and highly recommended it if you didn’t mind head-hopping. So, guess who had to pull it down and re-write it…Yep. Me! Thanks so much for your comment. I will take a look at “Little Fires Everywhere.” Yes. this book “Where The Crawdads Sing” is an amazing story and I predict we will see it on the big screen!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jan, you must have felt both pleased with the positive review but gutted to realise you had to pull the book to rewrite it. Do you think it would be more acceptable in today’s book world to have left it as it was?

        I found “Where The Crawdads Sing” on Amazon but it is ridiculously expensive so will order it from the library! Once it’s a famous movie you can say you predicted so early on!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. No, Annika, I definitely don’t think it would have been best to have left “Flowers and Stone” as it was. Even though the rules seem to be bending, I’m not a seasoned writer and therefore think I still need to follow the rules as closely as possible. If I ever hit best-selling status, then maybe I can let up. 🙂 Yes, The book is expensive and getting it from the library is a great option. I know you will love it!

    Like

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