Writing rules to break

First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience.

The best writers often had to transitioned from one culture to another. The discovery that their own world was not the only one provided them with a more unique voice. They learned to express what they experienced so that people half way across the world would understand. However, they also had a depth of insight, so peers growing up in the same time and place noted in the author’s writing what they had not noticed before. When you write you must consider how to express ideas to an audience so your words still ring true to readers from another place or time.

Don’t use passive voice.

The passive voice would not exist if it did not serve a purpose. If an important act has occurred and you do not want to reveal who did it, use the passive voice. For example, “A beat-up package had been shoved between the holly shrubs and the house.”

Your character discovers a crucial package and needs to uncover who left it there. Of course, you do not name the person who shoved the package into its hiding spot.

Remember that using forms of to be (is, are, was, were, be and been) does not always make a statement passive. Often the use of to be verbs indicates a continuing action or one that is occurring when another event happens.  Such as, “I was walking down an alley when I spotted my coat running away from me.”

Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”

Delete adverbs from language and it becomes impoverished. It may be redundant to say “She smiled cheerfully.” However, it is difficult to get across the sense of “smiling bitterly” without an adverb.

Take the adverbs out of all dialog tags and you limit the subtlety of emotions that people show when speaking. Not everybody uses extremes, such as whispering or screaming, to exhibit feeling. When creating a conversation I attempted to find a verb meaning to moan softly. There was none. Whimper did not convey the same idea. Stripping moan of the adverb weakened the meaning. So, sometimes adverbs are needed in speech tags. Just don’t over use them.

But don’t obsess over perfect grammar.

Rules of grammar and usage are ones that you should follow. Otherwise you need an ironclad explanation of why your writing is stronger if you choose to ignore them. If you are an unknown person submitting a manuscript and it contains grammatical or spelling errors, you’ve lost credibility with most publishers instantly.

You must find a way of not letting the need for perfect grammatical construction get in your way when writing. However, it is necessary to find and fix the errors before someone else reads your work. Too many people cannot forgive a mistake in punctuation, usage. or spelling.

Read, read, read and turn off the TV.

Reading excessively can be as much of a distraction as watching TV. Reading books that are not well-written will only inflate your view of your own writing. You need to read and watch what is excellent. However, limiting both will help you to write more. The reasons some authors read massive amounts is to find a source of plots from other books.

Show don’t tell.

Showing, or revealing the characters and story through description and actions, multiplies the number of words. If descriptions become too long, readers will struggle to place all the pieces in order. And, they may also become bored. People give up reading novels that only show because it is too much work to understand what is occurring. As the author, you must determine how to balance these two ways of writing.

So, stop obsessing over the rules written by other authors, especially if these authors break the rules themselves. Write to express your best ideas in a creative manner that is still accessible to others. Put your recent writing away for a while and see if it still works when you review it later. However, you’ll still need feedback from readers who don’t know you and are willing to be honest. Writing occurs when alone, but critiques that improve it cannot.

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