The Rules of Writing: Avoid Cliches

Original metaphor is definitely not among my writing strengths. I have friends who can create beautiful metaphors that perfectly evoke the feeling and impression they’re going for. I am jealous of these people and this ability. But writing without any kind of metaphor can feel a bit dry at times. And so on occasion I turned to the tried-and-true metaphors and similes that immediately say exactly what I wanted to say. Continue reading

The Rules of Writing: Dialogue Tags

Remember back in school when our English teachers told us to use variety in our dialogue tags? They told us to use words like exclaimed, muttered, acknowledged, retorted, roared, sighed, threatened, hinted, etc. In short, they drilled it into our heads that the absolute last dialogue tags we should ever use were “said” or “asked”.  Continue reading

The Rules of Writing: Use Perfect Grammar

This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to writing. So many new (and, honestly, long-time) writers have horrible grammar. And so many new and long-time writers are such sticklers for the rules that their writing comes across as bland, formal, or academic. Neither of these is a good thing.

Grammar is a tool. When used properly, it can add meaning and structure to your writing. When used improperly, it can make your prose confusing and unintelligible. Punctuation, sentence structure, word usage, and spelling are all vital to creating effective prose. Learning how to use these things effectively is important if you want to be a good writer. But it’s also important to know how to disregard these things when writing in-character to give us better insight into who that character is. Continue reading

The Rules of Writing: Switching POV, or “Head-Hopping”

“Head hopping” is pretty high on the list of writing sins promoted by many writers. Head hopping, in short, is switching back and forth between points of view within a scene or chapter. Many writers will tell you that the only, the absolute only, time that it’s okay to switch from one character’s POV to another’s is after a scene or chapter break. Doing so at any other time is the kiss of death.

To use my favorite uncle’s favorite word: Bullshit. Continue reading

The Rules of Writing: Show Don’t Tell

So, here it is, the first in my Rules of Writing series. This is probably the most-often-heard rule out there. “Too much telling! You need to show me more!” is seen in the comments on virtually every single piece of writing posted to an online critique group. It’s abused a lot, but there’s also a lot of truth in it. We call ourselves storytellers, which may be where part of the confusion comes in, but in reality we use words to show people stories that are in our heads. In other words, the goal of the words we put on the page is to create the same imagery in the mind of a reader that we had in our heads when we wrote the piece.  Continue reading

The Rules of Writing

Any writer who participates in the larger writing community has almost certainly run into “the rules” of writing. Generally, these rules are spouted in various critique groups, when another writer is giving you advice on how to make your novel/short story/what-have-you better. And in most cases, the people who are telling you all about these “rules” are doing so with the best of intentions (I say “most cases”, because sometimes they’re just pompous assholes who want to appear superior because they know all the “rules” and you, you pedant, haven’t a clue). And many new writers (and old ones, honestly) panic, and start applying all of these rules to their writing, hoping that this will be their ticket to getting published. If they just follow the rules, surely they’ll create the next Great American Novel, the next Times Bestseller, the next Nobel Prize-Winner, and their life-long writing dreams will be realized. Continue reading