Writing Rules

When I began writing people told me to follow the rules. I’m a rule follower, so that should’ve been easy, right? Tell me the rules, and I promise to follow them. Problem is, I can always find folks who are very successful (like award-winning) who don’t follow the rules.


One of the rules I worked hard to learn and to follow is “no head-hopping.” You know what that is. When you’re in one character’s head (POV) and within the same sentence or paragraph you hop over to another character’s head. In the old days, authors wrote this way. It was called the omniscient author. Nobody thought anything of it.

Well, at some point between “the old days” and when I began writing eleven or so years ago (wow, can it be that long?), the rules changed, and head-hopping fell into disfavor. So I took on line-classes, attended conferences, I practiced, I submitted to contests, worked with critique partners, and eventually I cut out the head-hopping. (Oh, occasionally a hop will slip in now, but I catch it on edits and rewrites. 😊 ) IMG_0248

So, why you wonder am I writing about this particular rule? I recently bought a book by a well-known, award-winning author, whose name I don’t remember right now. OMG! The author head-hopped all over the place. Not just having paragraphs switch back and forth. No within paragraphs. The process threw me out of the story, which was pretty good. I had to stop to see if the author had really head-hopped. And the author had.

Here’s my question for readers: Are you aware of POV when you’re reading a book? If so, does it bother you if the author bounces around between characters’ POVs? Does it bother you to have more than tow POV characters?

And for you writers out there: Has the rule changed, and I haven’t kept up? I confess to not attending a conference in a while. When you’re reading, are you aware of head-hopping? If so, does it bother you?


The reason you have fall pictures scattered throughout this blog is because I couldn’t think of a graphic for this topic. These pictures from my recent trip to  Belfast, Maine, which I did promise you last month. Hope you enjoy. them 😊 Love to hear from you.

Two of my books are set in New England: VERMONT ESCAPE,  and ACT OF BETRAYAL, Book 3, The Second Chances Series, which is set in Maine.

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16 thoughts on “Writing Rules

  1. Joanne Guidoccio says:

    Hi Marsha, I also struggled with head-hopping when I first started writing. Thankfully, a beta reader gently pointed it out. And now I’m very much aware when other writers head-hop.

    Lovely pictures…thanks for sharing.

    Joanne 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Vicki says:

    There is no head hopping in first pov which is what I write. I just don’t have a handle on writing third. This past summer, I found a contemporary romance author and she does head hop. Sometimes, my head went whoa and other times, looked over it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marsha R. West says:

      Hey, Vicki. I never thought of the fact first person can’t head-hop. I see, I can’t handle writing first person. I do head hop when I try to do that and therefore end up in third person. :LOL Nice there are enough readers to work with all the various ways we write. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


  3. Kathryn Jane says:

    Once I learned that head-hopping was a no-no, I worked hard at making sure I didn’t do it because I too am a rule follower. But I’m also a Nora Roberts super-fan and she writes in omniscient POV as well as a deep third POV and it works for me 🙂
    … which reminds me of something I’m pretty sure she said at one of the conferences. Something to the effect of there being no real rules, and you can do anything you like if you do it very, very well 😀

    I was recently reminded of this when one of my editor’s notes was – you switched POV twice in the last two pages, but it works and giving up the switch would take something away from the story 😀 ❤ I love my editor!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Marsha R. West says:

      Hey, Kathryn. Ah, yes. Ms. Nora. she can get away with most anything. 🙂 I’m okay with a switch on different pages sometimes, especially in RS, where the action demands that. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


  4. Jacquie Biggar says:

    I’ve read some stories where POV changes within a paragraph and left me scratching my head, and then other writers- like Nora Roberts and Suzanne Brockmann- do it and I think, okay, that’s how it’s done. 🙂
    Like Kathryn reminded us, if you’re going to do it, do it very well and it works.
    Gorgeous pics!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. daryldevore says:

    Notice – head hopping fell out of favour. It isn’t wrong – it just fell out of favour. But someone stated that we weren’t supposed to do it and everyone jumped on the band wagon.
    Go back and read the classics – A LOT of them are written omniscient and they are the classics. They are the books we are supposed to study to learn how to craft a great book. Anybody going to tell Shakespeare he’s got some issues going on in his books.
    I can hear you – yea – but he’s Shakespeare. Well, he wasn’t Shakespeare then. He wasn’t a master or a classic. He was an English dude writing what he wanted to write. (Such freedom.)
    I believe I know which award winning current novel you are talking about – I thought it was great and I loved the head hopping. It was such of fresh air to read something that is out of the box.
    I’ve always fought to say head hopping is ok. There is no rule of writing that says were can’t head hop. Honestly – there is NO rule. But authors will state I am wrong. That’s their opinion.
    I only follow 1 rule of writing – it’s my book and I will write it the way I want. If the story comes out in first person pov – so be it. If it comes out in omni – so be it.
    We watch tv shows and movies that are omni and we don’t complain. We can follow the story. But I think it will take a bit longer for authors to take a big breath and say – ok – maybe it’s ok to write the story this way.
    What goes around – comes back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marsha R. West says:

      Hey, Daryl, you make some interesting points. I do think in literary writing, the omniscient POV is still preferred. But I write romantic suspense–genre writing. I had a publisher say they didn’t like the five POVs I had used, so I rewrote to three. The book was better IMHO with the five, but I did it anyway. I really wanted the publisher to buy the book. They didn’t; another publisher did. Indie Published authors have more freedom to explore and expand their writing, but I do think the larger publishing houses don’t like head-hopping. Of course, there are folks who do it so well, it works. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your perspective. Good to keep the dialogue going on this and all issues with writing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Carolyn Rae Williamson says:

    I notice it when there’s head hopping, even when Nora does it. I think you should spend at least 3 paragraphs in one viewpoint before switching. Lots of romance publishers seem to want only 2-3 viewpoints. Allison Brennan used 13 viewpoints in one book. It worked, but I can’t get into so many characters and keep track of them. I wouldn’t have a problem with 5 as long as the author really gets into the character, so I can experience the story along with each character, which I believe is the best way to develop a story..
    I love your pictures. Colors are nice here this fall, but can’t compare with Maine or Michigan.


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