Rules. They’re everywhere in writing. As you attempt to refine your craft, it’s easy to feel flummoxed by the rules and the writers who enforce them.
Writing Tip for Today: Don’t use ly words, always use action beats instead of attributions, don’t describe a POV character observing something–just observe it. These and other writing “rules” can feel restrictive and make a writer self-conscious or even paranoid. How do you know which rules are set in stone and which can be bent now and again?
- When You Draft, Toss All Rules. This is the old “junk it through,” write a s***y first draft advice. It’s meant to help writers produce a lot of word count, defeat writer’s block and keep affected or self-conscious writing at bay. When you draft (create), don’t allow your editor self (or a well-meaning critique partner) to derail your originality, your momentum or your enthusiasm. You can edit later at your leisure.
- When You Revise, Read Aloud. Reading your work aloud is a great way to catch errors, sure. But you can also use it to try out different ways of expressing things. Take out all your “lys” or what-have-you and read the piece. Put some back and read it again. Which sounds best to your ear? Remember, you are the one whose name goes on the byline. Be proud of your work, and try not to cave to criticism that is a matter of taste.
- Master Your Craft. Students often ask me why they should adhere to writing rules when such-and-such famous author doesn’t do the same. The answer is that most if not all of the “famous authors” started out like the rest of us. They had to learn their craft, learn the rules. After they master the craft, some authors do color outside the lines or otherwise “break” rules. Master your craft, and then experiment.
Remember, there are only two kinds of writing: Writing that works and writing that needs work.