IWSG Question Jan 4
What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?
Ummm … all of them?
Don’t get me wrong, there does need to be a baseline for communication in any language – In the English language, you really do have to put the verb in the right place – “Jane ran with the dog.” Otherwise you end up with tragically confused sentences – “Ran Jane with the dog.” Although, I guess you could strategically place commas in certain parts of that last sentence, but it still sounds really awkward.
And there is certainly something to be said about knowing the difference between “there, their and they’re,” among other unfortunate mistakes ( you’re/your; accept/except; capital/capitol; desert/dessert; and so on…)
But I’ve found other rules to be more about opinions in flavor – Don’t use adverbs. No dangling phrases. Too much description. Show don’t tell. Strip out every excess word you can. Readers don’t like description, they don’t have the attention spans they used to 40 years ago. Your plot must be feasible (but not as feasible as real life, because real life plots have frequently been dumber than a box of hair and there are trial papers to prove it, but no one will believe it if you write it that way.) “Said” is dead. “Said” is not dead. No head-hopping (even though head-hopping was a phrase that was created by a publishing house 25 years ago in order to enforce a style type on their stable of authors to make them stand out from the pack and make the house brand more “defined” because EVERYONE was head–hopping back in the day). 50,000 words is too small! 100,000 words is too big! Cut out everything that does not absolutely have to be there in the story or your reader will get bored. PRESENT TENSE ONLY!!! Don’t repeat words. No flashbacks. Stop digging through your thesaurus. Too much this, more that. No! Not that! The other that! ARRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!! You’re doing it all wrong!!!! YOU’LL NEVER BE SUCCESSFUL AS A WRITER BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT FOLLOWING THE RULES!!!!!!!
If I took to heart every rule I have come across that have been touted by “professional writers” I would have a story that looks like this:
“My name is Bob and I’m twelve years old. I can see dragons. And that maple tree over there where my treehouse used to be. Now I’m fighting dragons to save Sue, the girl next door. I win. The End.”
No telling the reader any of the details. (How big was the maple tree? What season is it now? Did Bob fall out of his treehouse, crack his head and that’s why he can see dragons? Is Sue the love interest or just a friend? Does he like her freckles? Does she have freckles? How does Bob fight dragons? How did Sue get dragged into all of this?)
Okay, maybe the last two paragraphs are a bit of an exaggeration, but do you see my point? Every bit of writing would be reduced to the same boring vanilla voice if we all followed all the rules all the time. Guh. What would be the point in writing? There are only 7 (17? Definitely less than 20…) original stories out there – every story ever told since the dawn of time revolves around those 7 base maps. What makes your story different is HOW you tell it. Which means you must choose what rules you do and don’t use, when you use them, and why.
“It takes courage to grow and become who you really are.” e.e. cummings
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