Step One: Write a Great Story


I spend a lot of time on here talking about the different things we should look out for in our manuscripts. However, you can have a novel free of adverbs, participial phrases, wordiness, melodrama, and dialogue tags but still fall flat. Why? Because if you haven't written great characters and an interesting story, then all you have is a big stack of nicely edited words.

People often point out all the bestsellers out there that break the simple rules. "Look at all those -ly words! Oh my gosh, dialogue tags all over the place! That plot point would never happen." But what about story? Did their story capture you? Did the characters pull you in? Did the voice reach out and grab you?

Let's take my new favorite show Glee as an example. (Btw, if you're not watching this show, you are so missing out.) Now, I understand that Glee is a satire and many things are done tongue and cheek, but I'm going to look at a few points.

Stereotypical characters:

Mean blonde cheerleader

Bullying football player

Flamboyant gay guy

Outcast heroine


Unbelievable plot lines:

  • Wife fakes pregnancy and husband doesn't know (i.e. never sees her naked or touches her stomach, doctor plays along with ruse)
  • The football players are willing to do the Beyonce "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" dance on the field in order to win the game (hilarious, btw).

  • They allow a thirty something year old woman to come back to HS and join Glee

  • The counselor agrees to marry the coach but only if they live in separate houses and don't tell anyone.
  • The pregnant high schooler finds out the sex of her baby at a 10 week sonogram (my doctor must have been a hack because I couldn't find out until 20 weeks when I was preggers.)
  • I would say the Cheerleading coach is beyond belief, but I actually worked with someone who was frighteningly similar, even looked like her. Seriously.

So, on the surface, you would look at this and think the show is terrible. But it's not. The characters are lovable, the humor is spot on, and you really care about what happens. And that's what matters most.

So when you get stressed out over the mechanics and nuts and bolts of writing, remember that you are trying to write a great story. Worry about the details after that goal is accomplished.

Can you think of any other examples (books/movies/tv shows) that break the rules but still work? Do you find yourself getting tangled in the mechanics and losing site of your story?

**Today's Theme Song**
"Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" - Beyonce
(player in sidebar--go ahead, take a listen)