Reviewing “Books That Break the Rules”

In July, Krichelle Groth posted a contest: Books which break rules, but become best sellers.

  From Dennis Brooke,

Example #1:

Rule: Novels should be between 75,000 and 125,000 words (STEIN ON WRITING by Sol Stein)

Rule breaker: THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Ken Follett



Why It Works:  He had a following that allowed him to go to his publisher with a longer than normal book. The book was well-written and fascinating. His publisher resisted the book at first because it was so long and different from his typical spy novels.

Example #2:

Rule: Self-published books do not become bestsellers.

Rule breaker: THE SHACK by William P. Young

Why It Works: Love it or hate it, it was an interesting take on how God relates to us. The author shopped it to many different publishers before giving up and self-publishing.






#1) Carolyn Meagher

Rule: Novels composed only of letters between characters will not succeed.

Rule breaker:  THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Why it works: Written in elegant prose and featuring endearing, eccentric characters the story draws the reader into a community living through a little-known historical event.




 #2) Sonja Anderson

Rule: Novels should never address the reader because it will break the fictional “dream.”

Rule breaker: THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX, by Kate DiCamillo

Why it works: This charming middle-grade novel about a light-loving mouse gets into pretty scary territory when he has to descend into the castle dungeon. “Dear Reader” comments help frightened children feel like everything will turn out okay in the end.



#3) Gigi Murfitt

Rule: Be careful how much backstory you write because you may lose the reader’s interest.

Rule breaker: DECEIT  by Brandilyn Collins

Why it works: Brandilyn does a phenominal job of ping-ponging back story between chapters. Not only does it tell just enough to keep your interest, but also makes you keep reading to hit the chapter where the back story continues.  Difficult to do, but Brandilyn did it well in this book.



#4 Christa Bartlett

Rule: In books related to apologetics or evangelism, focus on basic ‘proofs’ of the faith; “study the genuine currency, not the counterfeit, to tell the difference.”

Rule breaker:  I SOLD MY SOUL ON EBAY, by Hemant Mehta

Why it works: The self-described “friendly atheist” visits churches, offering observations and interesting criticisms of American Christianity. As a reader you’re challenged to consider his arguments and evaluate your own beliefs and practices in light of his atheism.



#5 LeeAnn Bonds

Rule: Don’t use adverbs, especially ‘ly’ types.

Rule breaker: DON’T POINT THAT THING AT ME by Kyril Bonfiglioni.

Why it works: Story is in first person, and the protagonist uses ten times more adverbs than your average person. Bonfiglioni seems aware of the RULE, yet uses adverbs anyway, lavishly, outrageously, creatively and even self-consciously to magnificent comic effect. I find myself laughing out loud and wanting to copy out his delicious phrases.
Disclaimer: not suitable for family reading.


NCWA’s disclaimer: citation of books in this post does not imply a recommended reading list.  Winners will be contacted via email this week.  Thank you for participating!



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