Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When Rules Aren’t: namelos author Alina Klein

Alina Klein provides the final installment for the series of guest posts by namelos authors. She shares some advice about when to listen to advice –  and when to go your own way –  with “When Rules Aren’t.” Here's Alina:

I was at a writing conference several months ago listening to a well-published author share her rules about writing a novel. It was an entertaining speech. She was smart, funny and confident in what she was saying. She shared her rules with great conviction and everyone around me was scribbling notes, madly.

One of them was: Never write a book about something bad that happened in your past. Nobody wants to read that.

Scribble, scribble went the pens.

There was a point in my life that hearing that “rule” from the mouth of a popular author would have derailed me. The novel I worked on for many years was based on something bad that happened to me in my own past. Who was I to think I could do it successfully?

Of course, that wasn’t the first rule I heard at a conference, or read in a book, that made me question my story and whether I should continue with it. There have been many.

Luckily my memory is pretty poor. I’d forget derailing advice after a few days, weeks or sometimes months, and then I’d get back to work on my book.

The bottom line is, I had to write Rape Girl even if I broke every rule of every successful writer on the planet. Luckily for me, at some point I realized that the “rules” being tossed about in speeches, books and articles really weren’t. There are no absolutes when it comes to story, and what is acceptable or worth telling.

Don’t put your faith in anyone but yourself when it comes to what you should or shouldn’t write, or how to go about it. The rules we pick up from successful authors and industry professionals are there to guide us when we are lost, not derail us when we have some inkling of where we’re going. Pick and choose what inspires you, ignore the rest, and write whatever you must.

Alina Klein lives in Indiana with her husband, two sons, and a quirky assortment of pets, including both a tortoise and a hare. When she isn’t reading or writing you might find her foraging for wild edibles, hauling random materials around her yard to create pretty things for her garden, or snapping amusing photos of her children and guinea fowl. Alina volunteers as an Assistant Regional Adviser for The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Rape Girl is her first novel.


  1. Thanks, Alina, for sharing your story. I get so tired of rules, rules and more rules--it is stifling--IF you pay attention to them or remember them, lol. When one is trying to play it safe with writing, it won't fly. It will be boring, unoriginal and uninspired. As Jeff Goins of says, we need to stop waiting for permission.

    1. Charmaine, you're exactly right. And I'll have to look up Jeff Goins! Thanks for reading. :)

  2. Alina, you are so right! No one who writes a book by following a list of someone else's rules is going to create anything better than pulp. Your RAPE GIRL is compelling and devastating. I'm so glad you listened to your heart!

    1. Thanks, Carol. It's especially tough to trust yourself as a writer when you're just starting out, though, isn't it? That's half the battle. And even then you mostly have to trust that early crappy drafts can be made into something great if you keep at it. Keeping at it is the only real rule.

  3. Thank you, Alina, for your book and for your courage to write it.

    And an extra thanks to Chris for hosting namelos authors.