Passive voice is a tricky subject for a lot of writers. It’s often not explained very well, and so many writers don’t really understand what passive voice is. Because of that, there tend to be a lot of blanket statements out there that passive voice is always bad and should never be used. Read More The Rules of Writing: Passive Voice
Adverbs are a contentious issue among fiction writers. A lot of writers use them liberally, and a lot of other writers try not to use them at all. It’s often said that adverbs are a sign of weak writing, and should be replaced with stronger verbs. Read More The Rules of Writing: Don’t Use Adverbs
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. Read More The Rules of Writing: Avoid Cliches
Infodumps aren’t good. For the most part, I’m not going to argue with this. But I think there’s a lot of confusion about what an infodump actually is. A lot of people think that any time you’re putting backstory into the narrative rather than the dialogue or action, it’s an infodump.
I disagree with that definition. Read More The Rules of Writing: Infodumps
“Kill your darlings” is probably one of the hardest things for a lot of writers to do. And yet, if you want the final draft of your novel or short story to be as close to perfect as it can be, it’s necessary to cut all those wonderful little bits of prose that you’re just in love with. Read More The Rules of Writing: Kill Your Darlings
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”. Read More The Rules of Writing: Dialogue Tags
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. Read More The Rules of Writing: Use Perfect Grammar
“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. Read More The Rules of Writing: Switching POV, or “Head-Hopping”
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. Read More The Rules of Writing: Show Don’t Tell
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. Read More The Rules of Writing