The rules of writing.


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Thread: The rules of writing.

  1. #1

    The rules of writing.

    Okay, calm down, I am not really an authoritarian

    I always think of them as "Things worth considering" rather than rules, You can go against any one of them Provided you have a good reason to

    Yep, any one, you can even leave out punctuation and spell things wrong If you have a good reason to.

    If you are just doing it for the craigh it is probably a mistake, note I said 'Probably', I really don't think any of them are rules in the 'hard and fast' sense.


    Thing is, what are these rules? I can think of a few, besides checking spelling and grammar,

    Kill your darlings.

    Get your reader's attention early on.

    Less is more.

    Never use a ten cent word when a five cent word will do.

    But can you think of any more? And you can get into the 'Why?' if you like; like why I shouldn't I start sentences with a conjunction or repeat words next to each other?
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  2. #2
    "Always get paid." A writer who was a former accountant told me that.

  3. #3
    Active rather than passive

    Express rather then impress
    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  4. #4
    The fact this topic comes up so frequently says more about writers than about writing. The need for structure and stability in an artform which exists as a kind of mirror maze.

    I have read books which most certainly fit the 'less is more' mantra and I have read books that most definitely do not. If there's anything to be understood by the rule, then, it's a matter of numerical superiority: More often books tend to be good that use the principle of 'less is more' than do not include it.

    But, even that, is dependent on which books we are speaking of and the biases caused by perpetually small sample sizing: A book written in the voice of a sesquipedalian professor CANNOT follow the 'less is more' rule when it comes to the language. The trick is understanding what likely constitutes exceptions and what likely constitutes rules.

    With that in mind, some rules that I can think of that seem generally pretty solid and which I think I could justify:

    - Avoid opening stories with extended descriptions of the weather, or other mundane scenery.

    - Do not feature scenes of rape or sexual abuse unless they absolutely cannot be omitted from the story without the entire story ceasing to exist (do not use such scenes 'to show character', for instance)

    - Adhere to the Bechdel Test in any story where there are more than at least two female characters and where plot continuity allows it.

    - Dialogue is the most interesting part of any story and must be delivered perfectly every time. Always read dialogue out loud.

    - Do not dress a villain in black clothing.

    - Avoid good looking protagonists, unless they become ugly during the story.

    - Never try to describe genitalia in a sexy way.

    - Avoid prologues

    - Work to keep chapters within approximately 5,000 words.

    - Ensure that the end of every scene delivers a sense of meaningful change of circumstance from the beginning of the scene, commensurate with the length in word count of the scene. Avoid scenes that do not 'move the story'.

    - Avoid scenes that show cruelty to animals, especially dogs, unless mandated by the plot.

    - Avoid 'logistical' scenes unless extraordinarily interesting.

    - Use no more than one simile OR metaphor per paragraph to avoid image overload.

    - Characters should accurately reflect the demographics of the environment: A book set in modern New York City or London should not consist solely of white, English speaking people, for instance.

    That's all I got for now.
    Deactivated due to staff trolling. Bye!

  5. #5
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    A 'good' implication should suffice - this is along the lines of don't explain, describe;

    Read out loud - this is tricky for me because how I read out loud, is much different than how a reader reads;

    Less is more - worth repeating from other posts above;

    Inject humour - use it in character development because everyone has some sort of sense of humour;

  6. #6
    The main character should be involved in the climactic ending.
    I suspect there's things we do right so automatically that we don't even realize we are doing them. "Resolve the main conflict."

    Consider the reader's perspective.
    That came up recently. Are you trying to show that the situation is intense for your character, or are you trying to make it intense for the reader?
    Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools not Rules is finally published and available for $3 Hidden Content . Should be mandatory for serious writers, IMO. Italics, Fragments, Disfluency, lists, etc. But also commas and paragraph length. Discussed use of adverbs, and ends with a chapters on the awesome moment and the grammar of action scenes. Description at my Hidden Content

  7. #7
    I had not heard of the Bechdel test, but I immediately thought of my short 'Mrs W.' written after a bus journey down East hill in Hastings. Proud to say it concerns two women, they converse, and they never mention a man It is on my YouTube channel if you want to hear it, probably not the best one there, but...

    "... this is along the lines of don't explain, describe;" How on earth did I miss 'Show don't tell', that really is a saw that is repeated and repeated.

    "Express rather than impress" I love, there is seldom anything more tedious than an over inflated ego attempting to be impressive, and expressing something is usually the whole point.

    And 'Read it aloud', I can't think of a case off hand where that would not be applicable, and how did I miss it when I am currently working on a project to get all my shorts read aloud on YouTube? Doh!

    Thank you, this is great stuff folks, keep them coming. It may seem old hat to some of us, but there will be newbies who get a lot from this.
    A new story

    I finally got 'A Family Business' recorded and loaded, all 37 mins of it, much longer than any I have done before.
    Hidden Content

  8. #8
    I had not heard of the Bechdel test, but I immediately thought of my short 'Mrs W.' written after a bus journey down East hill in Hastings. Proud to say it concerns two women, they converse, and they never mention a man It is on my YouTube channel if you want to hear it, probably not the best one there, but...

    "... this is along the lines of don't explain, describe;" How on earth did I miss 'Show don't tell', that really is a saw that is repeated and repeated.

    "Express rather than impress" I love, there is seldom anything more tedious than an over inflated ego attempting to be impressive, and expressing something is usually the whole point.

    And 'Read it aloud', I can't think of a case off hand where that would not be applicable, and how did I miss it when I am currently working on a project to get all my shorts read aloud on YouTube? Doh!

    Thank you, this is great stuff folks, keep them coming. It may seem old hat to some of us, but there will be newbies who get a lot from this.


    Here is another, "Always carry a notebook"
    A new story

    I finally got 'A Family Business' recorded and loaded, all 37 mins of it, much longer than any I have done before.
    Hidden Content

  9. #9
    "Never end a sentence with a preposition."

    That, by the way, is one every writer can disregard. Restructuring to scoot the preposition back into the sentence often makes the sentence not only wordy, but too formal.

    That's all I can think of. -- That's all of which I can think.

    "Don't split infinitives."

    While we shouldn't try to fit an entire phrase into the middle of our infinitive, trying to eject a single adverb often results in awkward, and therefore less clear, sentences. The Chicago Manual of Style gave up the battle in 1983, and even that was too late. Of course, we should always consider whether that adverb is necessary to the sentence, anyway. Often it isn't, so if you write "He decided to immediately start", you can smile with satisfaction as you follow two rules with one deletion.

    That's efficiency! (Uh oh ... what's that rule about exclamation points again?)

  10. #10
    I'm with Olly Buckle-- writing rules or guidelines are meant to be carefully considered. It's good for a writer to understand the general rules or guidelines or suggestions for effective writing and it's also good for a writer to understand that those rules/ guidelines can often be broken to good effect. Sometimes breaking beginner writing rules can result in something outstanding. (Basics first, then comes the break from tradition or expectations.)

    Here's the "rule" I'm busy trying to learn all I can about its effective uses.

    Writing Rule: Don’t use passive voice.

    That is . . .

    Unless you’re Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness . . .”

    Or unless you're William Golding as he's writing The Inheritors.

    Or unless you're Jane Austen who loved to poke euphemistic fun at her characters through the use of passive voice.

    Use of passive voice is a much maligned, much misunderstood writing "rule" but it is a writing tool we can put to good and effective use when we learn what it's for and how it works. I'm still learning.
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