Okay, so I'm querying again, and I've got my Tweetdeck all set up with the #MSWL and #tenqueries threads, among others. It's amazing to me that I keep seeing things like, "Didn't follow my guidelines," or "I don't rep non-fiction, which is listed on my website."
See, I've always been a rule-follower (which is really funny that my first series is all about a girl who breaks all the rules!), and if an agent lists the way to submit to them on their blog/website, I'm going to follow it.
I think querying is one of those spots where you don't color outside the lines.
But in writing, I actually like to break a lot of guidelines. I think that's where we can and should experiment. Think about narrating a story from a unique angle, a different character than what's already out there. Try writing in multiple POV's, maybe even different tenses. Get creative with the dialog, vocabulary, or dialect.
Most of all, I think the one thing we can do as author that will serve us the best is to write the story we love. Don't worry about whether your editor or agent will like it. Don't concern yourself with how things are "supposed to be." Sure, there are some things that must be in place, especially in specific genres (like in a romance, the hero and heroine must end up together), but other than that, we only grow and improve by stretching into new and different places.
So as you're contemplating starting a new book, think about what you can do that you haven't done before. Break free of your self-imposed guidelines and write a book that you love.
Have you had any experience doing this? I've been around long enough to have experienced a lot of highs (royalty checks!) and lows (rejections!) of the business. I've reached the point where I've thrown my hands up into the air and said, "Whatever. I'm doing what I want to do."
I think my most successful novel came from that, because I wasn't trying to write something for someone else. I was just trying to write something I love -- and it turned out to be something I'd never done before: a novel in verse.
So I've been on that street that's full of the same POV, the same plot lines, the same protagonists. And while that side alley might be kind of dark, it's a great place to discover -- or re-discover -- your creativity. Don't be afraid to break free of the mob and find a new set of guidelines.
Just not when you're querying. :)