|Photo courtesy of wallyir of morguefile.com|
Until I learned to put these "rules" in their proper place and perspective, they felt like an ever-tightening chain that became heavier every day, threatening to snuff the life right out of my writing.
Here are some of the ones I’ve seen pushed using the extreme application I so often see:
- No adverbs. (This appears to be many people’s favorite witch-hunt. Adverbs are apparently truly evil, doncha know? - And, yes, I did that double-adverb on purpose. *G*)
- No -ing words. (Regardless of the fact that some NOUNS and ADJECTIVES are very valuable -ing words.)
- No -ed words. (Yep, I’ve run into that one, too, believe it or not! Just try to write in past tense without them. I dare you.)
- No dialogue tags (he said, she said, and any variations on "said" that you can think of). (Use beats only.)
- Don’t use a name to start a paragraph. (You don’t want to start every paragraph with a name, but come on!)
- No weasel words - just, as, seem, was, that, were, to be, really, often, usually, like, well, might, very, rather, began, started, some, suddenly, immediately, decided, wondered, thought, once, some, most, many, a lot, a few, more, a little, a bit, nearly, almost, quite, rather, anyway, even, knew, felt, would/could/should, up/down/back, is, are, had, have been - to name but a few (he he). There are more and the list is ever-growing as people decide one word or another is evil - depends on the source you check.
- Don’t start a sentence with or, and, or but. And to go along with THAT rule...
- Use only complete, grammatically correct sentences, no fragments.
- No italics.
- Show, don't tell. (Regardless of which works best for a given spot? Please. Sometimes, telling is a good thing. Sometimes, it's not.)
- Never begin two or more sentences in a row with the same word or phrase.
The only place any of these rules can (usually) be broken is in dialogue. (I say “usually” because I’ve even run up against the occasional individual who insists breaking some of these rules makes for “weak” dialogue, too.) The only exception being the use of “alright” in lieu of “all right”. The former is NEVER acceptable, even in dialogue, and just might get you shot. Well, maybe not anything that extreme (at least not that I’ve heard about so far), but it may get you declared a hack amateur by those who fret over such things. Apparently, it doesn’t matter how widely accepted it is, even by some publishers or dictionaries, there are some who just hold a disdain for this word. Some authors avoid criticism simply by never using either "alright" or "all right", period. People fret over the oddest things sometimes.
Anyway, here’s a writing exercise for those of you who are off-center like me. Take a scene you’ve written (copy to a new document, of course - do NOT use your original) and apply all of these rules as strictly as they are often pushed. See what you end up with.
If you are REALLY whacked and LOVE a challenge, try it with an entire chapter. he he
Am I saying we should blow off the “rules”? No. You DO need to know the “rules” of writing. They can help you write stronger and better. BUT keep them in proper perspective and apply them with common sense, reason, and balance. Recognize that they are guidelines, not absolute rules never to be broken lest you be burned at the stake, or at least blackballed by the entire publishing industry.
Don't let the "rules" snuff the life out of your writing, or your JOY in writing. Throw off the chains of writing-rules-legalism and write to your heart's content!
|Photo courtesy of matthew_hull @ morguefile.com|
So, what about YOU? Have you ever found yourself stifled by any of the above rules being shoved down your throat in their extreme forms? Have you been confronted with "rules" that aren't listed above? If so, please share!
BTW - to see the winner of the free autographed copy of my latest book, PROMISES, check out the comments on the Home blog post.