If you’re just tuning in this week, be sure to read Wednesday’s post featuring my interview with Uma Krishnaswami about her lovely new book The Grand Plan to Fix Everything! Before that, on Monday, I talked about a few of the children’s books conventions I think it’s worth paying attention to: word counts, child or childlike main characters, and having your protagonist solve his or her own problem in the story.
I want to finish out the week, though, by encouraging you to not get too caught up in what conventions or other people’s expectations seem to prescribe for your work. As Uma’s book shows, great things can happen when we bend or break some of the writing “rules” we often hear about, and ultimately the truth is that as long as you can make it work, there’s no limit to what you can do in your own writing.
I had a conversation with another writer recently about trying to remember that writing is supposed to be fun—that’s why we all started writing in the first place, isn’t it? Because we loved to tell stories, to make things up, to see what would happen with each turn of the page. If you started writing as a child, you probably didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about what you should or shouldn’t write about, or what the “right” way was to tell your story…you just jumped in, starting writing, and had a blast. The stories that most delight and excite our readers are likely to be the ones that delight and excite us while we’re writing them. Sure, as serious writers, it’s part of our job to be aware of writing conventions, of what often works and doesn’t, of what agents and editors and readers are likely to expect and desire when they read our work. But being aware isn’t the same as being bound to write with those things in mind all the time. If your story is taking you into rule-breaking territory and you’re enjoying the journey, don’t be afraid to throw the rulebook out the window and let your story lead you wherever it wants to go.