If you talk to new writers, or lurk around Internet forums dedicated to writing like some sort of weirdo listening in on other people’s conversations, or do panels or give presentations at writing conferences and the like, you’ll find something kind of strange: Writers, as a group, seem to think there are a lot of rules out there. They always want to know if you “can” do something in a story—is this idea too weird? Is that too many characters? Is this plot twist too crazy? Can you actually write a novel in the second person from the point of view of a dog?
Here’s something that isn’t all that shocking: Sure. You can do all those things.
We’re We’re Going We Don’t Need Rules
Look, writing is imagination committed to paper (or pixels). Writers have been pulling off novels that seem, on paper, at first blush, to be completely ridiculous. Novels have been written in stilted, theatrical ways, with oddball characters, and with only a glancing relationship with logic. And many of these novels have failed, sure, but not because of the crazy ideas or overly ambitious approach. They failed only because the writer failed to sell it.
That’s the secret: There are no rules. No idea is too crazy, too stupid, or too clichéd to be successful. All that matters is whether you have the skill and the acumen to pull those ideas off.
I sometimes think writers are looking for excuses not to tackle those big, crazy, complex ideas, or that they’re thinking way too hard about selling and marketing that book before they even write it. There are no rules there, either. Anyone who tells you that you can’t sell a book with a certain theme or in a certain genre is wrong—you can sell anything, if it’s good enough.
So, write your novel. Be crazy. Get crazy. Throw everything in there. Write from the dog’s point of view and then decide the dog is a Venusian time traveler. Write it without using the word and just to see what happens. And if it doesn’t work, don’t blame the idea—blame the writing, and start over.
Well, blame the writing, have a few stiff drinks, then start over.