Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Rules, Rules, Rules

Rules, Rules, Rules.

Ever since I began writing I have been told how to do it. There are rules on how to begin the story, what to have in the story, how to end the story. So I have listed some of the rules I have found.

Here are a few Don’ts.

Don’t assume there is any single path or playbook writers need to follow. Don’t try to write like your favorite writer. Don’t worry about whether you should outline or not, whether you should write what you know, whether you should edit as you go along or at the end. Don’t ever get complacent about the basics: good spelling, healthy mechanics, sound grammar. Don’t ever write to satisfy a market trend or make a quick buck. By the time such a book is ready to go, the trend will likely have passed. Don't try to follow some set plot formula. Don't put in a lot of fluffy, unimportant stuff that the reader is going to skip. Don’t ever assume it will be easy. Don’t ever stop reading. Don’t be afraid to give up … on your present manuscript. Sometimes, a story just doesn’t work. But, don’t ever give up writing. Writers write. It’s what we do. It’s what we have to do.

Here are some Do's.

Do grab the reader's attention at the beginning by establishing the protagonist, the setting, and the mood. Do have everything in a story caused by the action or event that precedes it. Do have the story about a person who wants something but cannot get it. Do have a vulnerable character, the right setting, and meaningful choices. Tension is at the heart of story and unmet desire is at the heart of tension. Do create more and more tension as the story continues by having setbacks, crises, and antagonism. You won't have a story until something goes wrong. Do have the protagonist making a discovery that will change his life by the end of the story. Do the writing first then worry about inserting breaks and chapters.

Here are some rules on the personal side.

Don’t spend your time waiting to hear back from an agent or publisher. Get to work on your next book or idea while you’re querying. Don’t get mad at someone for the feedback they give you. No piece of writing is perfect. Don’t forget to get out once in a while and enjoy the other parts of your life.

Here are a few dubious rules, which I have seen broken in many best sellers.

Don't open your book with weather. Don’t have a prologue. Don’t use any other word other than said to carry dialogue. (I personally find it very boring to read said all the time. How does the reader know if the character is angry if he says 'said' instead of 'shouted'? "Get out of here." can be said softly, said through clenched teeth, said angrily, shouted). You need to show emotion. Don’t use an adverb to modify the word said. (see last statement) Keep exclamation points to a minimum. (Again see above). Avoid detailed description of characters, settings and objects.

And now some quotes about writing from famous writers.

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”—Philip Roth

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” —George Orwell

 “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”—Ernest Hemingway

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”—Virginia Woolf

 “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”—Samuel Johnson

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”—Elmore Leonard

“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”—Larry L. King

 “There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.”—Doris Lessing

“Style means the right word. The rest matters little.”—Jules Renard

“Style is to forget all styles.”—Jules Renard

“I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”—Tom Clancy

 “Don’t expect the puppets of your mind to become the people of your story. If they are not realities in your own mind, there is no mysterious alchemy in ink and paper that will turn wooden figures into flesh and blood.”—Leslie Gordon Barnard

 “Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.”—Leigh Brackett, WD

“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”—Joyce Carol Oates

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”—Stephen King

 “You do not have to explain every single drop of water contained in a rain barrel. You have to explain one drop—H2O. The reader will get it.”—George Singleton

“When I say work I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.”—Margaret Laurence

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”—Mark Twain

“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”—R.L. Stine

  “Beware of advice—even this.”—Carl Sandburg



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