“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there be.” – Doris Lessing

I’m rereading John Steinbeck’s The Wayward Bus, which I first read at age 13. Who knows how much of it went over my head, but I fell in love with Steinbeck’s writing and made my mom take me back to Library Ltd. every few weeks for a new yellow volume until I’d read all the short ones and got stuck on East of Eden for another 15 years.

That’s a story for another day, though.

Right now I’m deep in The Wayward Bus again and realizing that all the rules I’ve been soaking up and spreading out like so much worm juice on an organic farm are just that — liquid refuse.

This is both dismaying and deeply gratifying.

Among the writing rules Steinbeck doesn’t give a damn about:

Third person unlimited keeps the tension low.


Starting a novel with a bunch of backstory is a terrible idea.


Every shift to a different character requires a new paragraph. 


Exposition is deadly. 

No again.


This is great news for me as an editor, for my clients as writers, and for truth in fiction in general. It does, however, consign my upcoming Exposition Exposed workshop to some deep rewrites. So it goes.