Saturday, June 29, 2013

Personal Rules of Writing

As stated in the title, what follows is a personal list of writing rules.  Some of these (such as #7), I'm still actively working on; others have become more ingrained in my creative process. But I would never be so ostentatious as to claim that all writers should follow these guidelines.  We each have our own distinctive voices and styles; rules that work for one author may very well be disastrous for another. So this list really serves as a reminder to myself more than anything else.  And, as always, these are not set in stone. They are simply my current guiding principles and are subject to revision and change.

1)      Write whatever the hell you want to write about. Don’t let genres limit your imagination.

2)      Thesaurus use is okay when a word is on the tip of your tongue… but don’t use words that you wouldn’t use in everyday conversation.

3)      Never stop working on your current work in progress for the day without at least a general idea of what happens next.

4)      It is not necessary to describe every detail of a room or person; instead, pick the most prominent features. Picture yourself seeing it for the first time and describe the details which stand out above the others.

5)      If you find yourself completely and entirely stuck, try switching gears. More often than not, you’re simply working on the wrong project.

6)      Don’t use an adverb if there’s a stronger verb which means the same thing. For example, a character could run quickly down a hall… or the character could dash. Or bolt. Or sprint.

7)      Pay attention to simile usage.  Trim them down and use with care. An abundance of similes can quickly pull the reader out of the story.

8)      If a simile is appropriate, never use a comparison that is outside the character’s frame of reference.

9)      When building suspense, use progressively shorter words, sentences and paragraphs. This causes the reader to read faster which (in theory) triggers a psychological response akin to the flight or fight reflex.

10)   Atmosphere isn’t necessarily solely built with adjectives and nouns. The right verb can also go a long way in setting the mood. For example, a pit which devours the light (in my opinion) is much more menacing than a “dark pit”.

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