Rule Breaker

16 Mar

Writing is difficult. Fun, but difficult. Kind of like being a kid. That must be why both have rules. And sometimes they aren’t that different. But, more about that later.

First, I’d like to talk about another thing that has rules. A writing contest. Susanna Leonard Hill’s In Just Spring writing contest to be exact. Here is my entry:

Spring Was Not Here

Spring was not here.

I put on my boots and went outside anyway.

Spring has puddles

and green grass

and mud.

Outside had snowflakes

and brown grass

and no mud.

Spring was really not here.

“Wait up!” I called.

I tried to get the snowflakes. One by one they melted and disappeared.

“Do you want to play catch?” my neighbor yelled.

It was fun, but our ball got soggy.

“Watch me,” called my sister doing headstands in the grass.

I am not as good at headstands as my sister. Soon, my knees and elbows were green.

“Let’s play tag,” I said.

The slippery ground made it tricky.

“Take off those muddy boots before you come inside,” my mother said.

Then I knew spring was here at last.

Here are the rules:

1. Write a children’s story, in poetry or prose, maximum 350
words (I’m under with 131).

2. The story must be about something that really says “SPRING” to
– something that really makes you feel that spring is here!

3.The last line must be “[Character Name] knew Spring was really here!” or
“[Character Name] knew Spring was here at last!”  (You can also write in first
person if you want – e.g. I knew Spring was really here…. and present tense is
fine too.)

How did I do?

Now, on to the post.

I was a rule-follower as a kid. I’m the same way as an adult. It is probably why my chapter book character is a rule breaker. Like when she eats all of the cookies for her Blossoms troop’s (similar to Girl Scouts) sale. Or when she sticks a spider in her adversary’s pocket, leading to an itchy spider bite.

But that doesn’t mean I necessarily like rules. It used to drive me nuts as a kid when my friends didn’t have to wear a coat and I did. Or that they had a later bedtime. What made it worse was that, when I complained to my mother, she said, “I’m not so-an-so’s mother.”

I know now what she was trying to tell me: that every family has different rules because every parent is just trying to do what is best for their kids. Mister is probably going to hate that I won’t let him climb up the slides at the playground or have his toys at the dinner table.

Maybe like every family, every writer has different rules too. But I would guess they aren’t too far off from kids’ rules. Especially ones like:

Be polite.


Keep your hands and feet to yourself.

Tell the truth.

Clean up.

Help out.

And here is how they apply to writing:

Be polite– don’t put down your ideas. Even the silliest idea might have merit. Even when it doesn’t, writing down the silly ideas gives the good ideas the courage to come out.

Listen– when something is speaking from within, drop everything and write it down!

Keep your hands and feet to yourself– no violence is to be used against drafts. Cut if you must, but save everything.

Tell the truth– write what is true for your story, but keep it true to real life. Even fantasy has things that are relatable and true even in an entirely made-up world.

Clean up– revision is vital. Sometimes the more people who help, the easier it is.

Help out– join a critique group, go to conferences, enter contests (like Susanna Leonard Hill’s), and help another writing. I’d almost guarantee that what you’ll get out of it will be more than you put in.

Other writing activities also apply (even Mary’s rules for writing, well…rules!):

You won’t truly feel like a super controlling behavior obsessed “mom” (in my case) until you try to write down all the rules. We are having someone new watch the dogs, so I sent her the girls’ schedule, feeding instructions, suggested activities and emergency contact information. Despite the fact that my pets are fairly mild mannered, my “rules” ran to 4 pages (and that was without instructions for brushing the cat’s teeth — I figured I’m not paying this woman enough to perform that particular task). YIKES! I’m a nut…

My writing rules for this project were pretty standard: note deadline (date of trip); write up rules(listen); hand them off to DH for proofreading/revision(help out); walk through them (literally) for a few days and make note of things I had missed(be polite and tell the truth); revise rules (clean up); send draft to caregiver; meet with caregiver so she can warm up to both the rules and the pets(keep your hands and feet to yourself); hope for the best.

Maybe “hope for the best” is the most important rule of all.


Posted by on March 16, 2013 in Process


Tags: , , , , ,

27 responses to “Rule Breaker

  1. Janeal Falor

    March 16, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    Fun contest entry!

    Cute way to do your writing rules. Funny that your characters are always rule breakers. It’s one thing I love about writing, being able to do whatever you want and the only consequences are in the world of fiction. Hope for the best is probably the most important rule.

    • cocoanqueso

      March 17, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      Thanks for reading the entry! I’m following the rules and hoping for the best there too. Thanks for finding time in your crazy pre-book-release schedule to comment!

  2. Susanna Leonard Hilla

    March 17, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    What a cute story, Beth! I love the beginning – so believably kid! “Spring was not here. I put on my boots and went outside anyway” 🙂 And it’s delightful the way spring sneaks up on your main character. Very fun! Thanks for a great entry. (And I really enjoyed the rest of your post too! I especially like be polite – that’s an important one to remember – it’s so much easier to put your ideas down sometimes, and listen – because it’s true – ideas are all around and you never know when one worth remembering is going to strike! :))

    • cocoanqueso

      March 18, 2013 at 8:28 am

      I’m glad you liked the story and the post. My first idea was similar to yours (shedding winter clothing) but I guess I have a soft spot for mud. Thanks for your feedback, Susanna! And thanks for hosting the contest!

  3. Patricia Tilton

    March 17, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Such a fun story, Beth. I could visualize the entire story. And, the end was a bit of a twist. Enjoyed this a lot.

    • cocoanqueso

      March 18, 2013 at 8:30 am

      Thank you, Patrcia! I wanted to enter a story that was “me.” From your feedback, it sounds like I did okay. I hope to spend some time looking at the other entries today. I look forward to reading yours!

  4. Heather Annie Dent

    March 18, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Short and sweet. I like it! I particularly related with your character as you talked about headstands. I was always the one with the biggest grass stains too!

    • cocoanqueso

      March 18, 2013 at 8:32 am

      Thanks, Heather! I was a grass stained kid too. Now that I have a kid of my own, I’m hoping it isn’t hereditary.

  5. colonialist

    March 18, 2013 at 7:49 am

    A hippo will agree totally with your conclusion about spring! 🙂
    As for the rules, I always find a useful final rule for almost everything is to throw the rule book out of the window every now and again!

  6. Penny Klostermann

    March 18, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Beth, Nice to meet you through Susanna’s contest. Cute title that drew me into to your fun spring story. Good job!

    • cocoanqueso

      March 19, 2013 at 8:29 am

      I’m glad you liked the title, Penny. Thanks for the feedback and good luck to you!

  7. teresarobeson

    March 18, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Much as I love spring, it is really muddy, muddy, muddy, isn’t it? LOL!

    I like and also live by “hope for the best.” 🙂

    • cocoanqueso

      March 19, 2013 at 8:29 am

      It is muddy. I tried a couple of different story ideas and they all had mud! Probably because I was covered in that as a kid, too. I hope for the best for you!

  8. Donna L. Sadd

    March 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Cute little story Beth! I was a grass-stained kid too and this is why I ask you to re-think allowing Mister to climb UP the slide…one day. :0)

    • cocoanqueso

      March 19, 2013 at 8:28 am

      The down only slide rule happened because another child was climbing up the slide when Mister was very young and kicked him in the head. I wouldn’t want him to do that to anyone else! Perhaps one day he can go UP, provided the park is empty or the slide is in our own yard. That makes the rule a little longer…
      Thanks for your comment, Donna!

      • Donna L. Sadd

        March 19, 2013 at 8:33 am

        I would have bet that an ‘incident’ was a catalyst for the rule. :0)

  9. laura516

    March 18, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Funny that mom’s chiding signals the return of spring!

    • cocoanqueso

      March 19, 2013 at 8:26 am

      Hmm. I intended the mud on the boots to indicate spring, but you’re right that it reads that way. Perhaps a revision is in my future? Thanks!

  10. Jennifer Young (@ItsJennyYoung)

    March 19, 2013 at 9:31 am

    This was so cute Beth! Good to see you are writing away too 🙂

  11. Meg

    March 19, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Very cute! Love that they knew spring was there because of muddy boots! 🙂 I like your writing rules too, especially be polite. We are our own worst critics!

    • cocoanqueso

      March 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      Writing is a tricky thing. We have to be our own worst critics AND our own biggest fans. AT THE SAME TIME! Somehow we manage, though. Good luck with your story and thanks for reading mine!

  12. Denise Bruce of Ingleside

    March 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    oh I so can’t wait to say get those muddy boots off!! we’re having storms upon storms here on PEI… Spring WILL find us lol such a cute story, Beth 🙂

  13. viviankirkfield

    March 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    I love your spring story, Beth! You brought a resolution to the problem of a missing spring when mom says, “take off those muddy boots” and your mc knows that spring is here.:) It is lovely to connect with you vis Susanna’s contest.:) And when you share how you felt when your mom said, ‘I’m not so-and-so’s mother’..oh my, how that rang a bell!!!!! I can still hear her voice telling me that, even though it was over half a century ago.:)

    And how clever to relate the rules of childhood to the rules of writing…very entertaining…and very true!

    • cocoanqueso

      March 20, 2013 at 8:58 am

      Thanks for reading the story and the post, Vivian! I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt that way as a child! Despite feeling like I’m turning into my mother, I haven’t said “I’m not so-and-so’s mother”…yet.

  14. thiskidreviewsbooks

    March 19, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Nice entry! (and GREAT analogy!) 😀


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