Thursday, February 28, 2013

Breaking the law, breaking the law!

As writers we tend to spend a lot of time in our solitary writing caves, hunched over keyboards, grumbling about revisions.  So when you gather us together in public and add melt-in-your-mouth buttery crepes and book talk, we get a little giddy. 

And possibly loud.

This past weekend I met with four other kidlit writer friends for a semi-frequent get-together (semi-frequent, as in, whenever one of us thinks “Hey, it’s been a while” and sends off a flurry of emails to corral us.) Once we finished oohing and aahing over one of our groups shiny 2-book deal with Harper Collins (everyone add MONSTROUS to your TBR list now!), someone posed the question, “So, how established do you think you need to be before you can break all the ‘rules’?” 

“Rules? What rules?” we asked, slurping our café au laits.

“Well, for instance, before you can get away with starting a book with a dialogue line.”

“Or a prelude,” someone added.

“Or on the first day of school!”


Oh, this was fun.  Rule talk turned to cliché talk. Red haired characters (2% of the natural population, 98% of the literary population)!  Green-eyed characters! Ooh, better yet, emerald-eyed characters! Characters with symbolism-filled names of flowers, birds or variations of “the chosen one”.

And those oversold categories: dystopian, paranormal, dystopian paranormals.  

In honor of my over-caffeinated, weighed-down-with-butter writing friends, whom I truly love seeing outside of my computer, my new WIP is just for you. Everyone else, feel free to add on in the comment section- I'm sure I've forgotten some good ones (and please take it with a grain of salt and a healthy sense of humor if your ms happens to have one of these cliches- no offense is intended!)


It was a dark and stormy night when crazy, crazy action happened.  This action will not happen until page 776 of the book, whereas the first 775 pages will be extremely quiet and contain oodles of flowery, adjective-filled prose.  There will be frequent six-page descriptions of the barren landscape.  But hang in there, because you KNOW from this prelude that the action is coming…eventually.

Chapter One

Sigmund Freud: “Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.” (much like the characters in this book)
Elmer Fudd: “We’re hunting wild wabbit”

“Wake up, Chrysanthemum!”


My brother’s deep and authoritative voice cuts through my restful sleep and I finally realize my alarm clock has been ringing for some time. I gingerly sit up in bed and stretch, nerves already jangling as I remember what today is.

I shouldn’t be this nervous. With everything we’ve been through this last year: losing our parents to the uprising, discovering my superpowers, finding out I have to be the one to save the world, and Jake’s final transformation to full-on vampire, starting at a new school should be a piece of cake.

I sigh deeply, moving aside the ruffled, petal-pink duvet and placing my feet tenderly on the ground.  With a heavy heart I move to the mirror and examine myself carefully, noting that even at this early hour, my luxurious, wavy hair looks perfect and is the same luscious red as an old-time movie star’s lips.  My eyes are a brilliant emerald green.  They sparkle at me in the reflecting glass.

I’m so grateful that I still have my piece of mirror, a small reminder of what our world used to look like, before The Great Disaster struck, and took my parents, along with most of the world’s adults.  Mom and Dad would be proud of the way my younger brother Jake and I are handling this brave new world.

We’ll get through today just like we’ve gotten through the last 300 days.  One step at a time. I may be the chosen one, but today I’m just a normal sixteen year-old.  And my forever love could be waiting for me right now, in Geometry class.

I grab my lucky talisman and race downstairs.


  1. You gave my friend and I a good laugh!

  2. Ah! Thank you for the shout-out here :) I love our little writerly meet-ups - so cool to talk to other writers in person.

    These are hilarious examples. It's so hard to tell when it's OK to break the rules and when you're pushing your luck. In MONSTROUS, the MC wakes up and falls back to sleep twice on the first page, so I was particularly nervous it would get rejected automatically for that, but I really believed it served the story. Fortunately, I found an agent and an editor who agree! When I've tried rule-breaking in the past, it has not always gone so well...I think the key is really knowing your story and not using it as crutch or easy way to do something - it's all about the execution and it needs to serve a real purpose. Tricky!

  3. I'm sure I've got a whole lot of ALL of that sprinkled generously throughout my WiPs. How I love thee oversold dystopian. Let me count the rose petals :-)

  4. Hilarious post! And yes, congrats again, MarcyKate! I'm bummed I missed our last get together. Count me in for the next. Honestly, the first draft of my now-shelved, dead genre dystopian started with this line: "The day he came for me was gray." Seriously. And then the next paragraph my MC wakes up. Fortunately, it went through much revision before querying (particularly once I found twitter and learned some of these rules). Candidly, although I see the reason for many of these rules most of the time, I also think it's an easy way to screen. You've either done enough work/research to learn the rules and thus can make it through door 1, or you haven't. Of course, there are exceptions. And since my current WIP starts with dialogue, I'll have to think long and hard whether to revise.

  5. ... and when I see what's at the bottom of the stairs, I let out a breath I didn't know I'd been holding. :)

  6. ... and then I bit my lip so hard I tasted blood!

    Seriously, crepes make all the cliches better. Looking forward to our next meet-up! (What will we come up with then?)

  7. I laughed at my desk. Thank you for that.

  8. Just make sure you describe her by having her look in a mirror.....

  9. This is really funny, absolutely love it! Made me smile :D

  10. Haha. I LOL'd! Too funny. Also there is a book called CREEPS out soon (it has a yellow cover) and every time I see it on Goodreads, I keep reading CREPES. LOL!!!!! :-)

  11. This is hilarious, Jen. Love the post!