Sunday, May 26, 2013

Staying inside the lines

I've read several good novels lately. It was obvious that the authors had studied their craft. The stories had three-act structures and solid goals, motivations and conflicts. They were good.

I've also read some books recently that were better than good. They made me feel something. They stuck with me long after I read them. I was sad when I finished the last page.

What makes one book good and another great? Is it the structure, the story, the characters, the writing?

It's probably a combination of all those things, but I also noticed something that the authors of these books seemed to have in common:


I love to follow the rules. I enjoy craft books. I think learning how to write is important. But I also think that sometimes we become such slaves to doing things "right" that we forget to write with the passion, fearlessness, and honesty that it takes to create not just a good book but a great book.

So I'm going to start letting myself have more fun with my writing and not let those well-intentioned lines get in my way.

What do you think makes a book great? 


  1. When you have learned the rules, then you can break them.

  2. Glad you feel this way, Julie. The next book I'm going send you breaks quite a few rules, but I hope it's a little more interesting that way!

  3. It's hard to say. I think when a writer feels it, the reader feels it too, though.

  4. I agree--fearlessness. I love it when I read a book and think, did she really just say that? :)

  5. You know what's funny? It took my editor to show me that craft books, while great, can only take you so far. Sometimes you have to let go of the rules. :)

  6. I agree with Jennifer. I think when the write is feeling it I am. And I never care if they follow the rules. I just want a good story that I can picture in my head. :)

  7. In a nutshell: fearlessness! Give me two gallons! I think we should put all our rules away until we get that spontaneous first draft completed. Just let if flow. I'm inhibited by rules, which is one reason I stay away from some of the writer loops that spout rules and regulations as if there's only ONE way to do something.

    As for Jennifer's comment: if a writer feels it, the reader will too. I don't know if I believe that but I sure hope it's true! :)