If the answer is "pick a method and be consistent", your question may be one of style.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

82
votes
20answers
3k views

The “Rules” of Writing

There are a lot of axioms that get tossed around in creative writing courses, books on writing, and of course, the internet. Often, these little gems are explained to new writers as though they were ...
42
votes
20answers
2k views

How to overcome the fact that I can't write?

My problem is that I basically suck at writing. Especially prose. Part of it is basically because I don't practice as much as I could. Part of it is because I'm just not talented in that way. ...
32
votes
20answers
3k views

How to name the characters of your story?

I find it hard to name my characters. Every normal name sounds funny if applied to a product of my fantasy. If I take a common name, I may get the image of someone I know into my head. And that may ...
26
votes
3answers
630 views

Explicitly correcting yourself while writing - how appropriate is it ?

Like so: He worries – well, not worries, but laments a little – that he senses people don't read Henry James anymore (sentence source: Monkey See, NPR Blogs ) I've used this style myself ...
25
votes
7answers
721 views

When is it okay to tell?

One of the major mantras of writing fiction is "show, don't tell". Is it ever okay to tell? When?
23
votes
5answers
2k views

“All of a sudden…” ?

I am writing a manuscript for a novel. It's my first attempt, and often I find myself wanting to write "suddenly" or "all of a sudden". I do this when I want the scene to change in an instant, or ...
20
votes
4answers
1k views

How do you avoid purple prose?

I try to watch out for bland, overused adjectives and I keep adverbs to a minimum but -- I hear this phrase a lot and I'm not even sure what it means?
19
votes
17answers
2k views

Are complex sentences uncommon or unwanted in English?

I wrote my opinion essay using a lot of different complex grammatical structures, linking words and so on, and some of the sentences were even over 4 lines long. However, I was afterwards told by my ...
19
votes
2answers
510 views

When should modifiers be avoided?

I've come across this Mark Twain quote: When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them -- then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close ...
19
votes
6answers
1k views

What are the most common style manuals?

From Wikipedia: A style guide or style manual is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization or field. ...
19
votes
2answers
5k views

Which words should not be capitalized in Title Case?

I would need a list of all words that are not capitalized in English titles. I would also like to make sure if it's true, that all first and last words of a title are capitalized no matter what. I'd ...
18
votes
7answers
651 views

Should I avoid modern words/phrases in fantasy writing?

When writing, I tend to want to use words or phrases that have meaning in the real world, but wouldn't necessarily have meaning in the world in which I'm writing. For example, in a fantasy world, a ...
18
votes
10answers
965 views

Could I reach the level of good writing style as non-native language speaker?

I currently write in Russian, but I think of switching to English to gain more audience and to play with both languages and linguistics. So could I ever reach the level of native English writers and ...
17
votes
8answers
902 views

Is it frustrating not to know the narrator's gender?

I have written a 1st person piece and reading it I realize it's very difficult to tell if the narrator is male or female. There are one or two clues, and they come pretty late in the piece. Would ...
16
votes
9answers
1k views

Tips for expanding my vocabulary?

Looking back through my texts, I noticed that I often use a lot of the same words and resort to using quite a basic vocabulary. I was wondering if there are any good exercises or anything else for ...
16
votes
7answers
1k views

What's Essential In A Combat Scene?

I've just been reading a bunch of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books. Although they were the most enjoyable read I'd had in ages I always found myself skimming long segments that described involved ...
15
votes
8answers
1k views

What makes writing emotional?

Over the years, my English professors seem to have agreed on one thing: that I'm a superb technical writer, but terrible at eliciting emotional response in something like a story or an argumentative ...
15
votes
8answers
2k views

What breaks suspension of disbelief?

So much of Sci-Fi and Fantasy requires the viewer (or reader) to suspend their disbelief: The speed of light can be circumvented, magic works, vampires are real (and may or may not sparkle), etc. ...
15
votes
4answers
540 views

As a non-native English speaker, Is it better to get translated or get copyedited for long texts?

My English level is average. I can write fluently and my vocabulary is not too limited. With the thought in mind that the end result must be perfect, is it better for me to write my long text (100 ...
14
votes
6answers
675 views

What are some ingredients of really engaging non-fiction?

Some of the best non-fiction writers, in terms of sales at least, seem to be able to write in a really engaging and easy to read style that makes their work hard to put down. For example, ...
14
votes
2answers
455 views

Techniques to disguise authorship of text

As Wikipedia and at least one answer on this site suggest, the name stylometry encompasses certain techniques to determine authorship of text. Although stylometry itself appears to require a certain ...
13
votes
5answers
1k views

I'm getting tired of “he said” “she said” in dialogue; how do I get around it?

I get tired of "he said", "she said", "they replied". Is there a better, but still reasonable way, to indicate dialogue?
13
votes
5answers
360 views

How do you find your unique style?

Let me preface this by saying I am quite young as writers go, only 20. Oftentimes as I am writing, I find myself simulating the style of whatever I most recently read-- sometimes the clipped and ...
13
votes
5answers
3k views

What does active voice mean?

I was reading on here about passive voice but didn't really know what active voice was. I read some examples but was hoping for more insight. What does it mean to write with the active voice?
13
votes
5answers
534 views

What is flash fiction?

Is it simply defined by its short word count? Or are there other accepted conventions in flash fiction? If it's just the word count, how short is too short? How long is too long?
13
votes
7answers
621 views

What helpful writing exercises do you use?

The two I do most are dialog and description related. When I meet a person or I'm just sitting people watching, I try to write their description in my head as if I was describing a character in a ...
13
votes
1answer
269 views

Checklist for making sure your writing is Atomic?

Question: Can someone please give me a list of things to check when reviewing a document to make sure that it is atomic. Atomic? Meaning that anyone can start reading at any section in a document ...
12
votes
8answers
384 views

How much leeway can be expected from an editor regarding my preference for nonstandard punctuation?

As I hope to present a unique style to the world, as I am not especially tolerant of being told I'm doing things "wrong" when that's a subjective statement related to writing style, and as I've never ...
12
votes
4answers
251 views

How to vary writing style?

I just had to edit a 40 page paper and I'm not kidding, there were paragraphs where every sentence started with "This." How do good writers learn to vary their sentence length and wording to flow? I ...
12
votes
3answers
279 views

How to create space

Recently, a few snippets of my fiction have received critiques along the lines of 'Does not give a sense of space'. Or 'needs more description, sights and sounds'. I think where I am going wrong is ...
12
votes
6answers
174 views

Writing for an Audio book. What are specifics?

What are specific requirements, a writer should follow, when writing something that is going to be (or just can possibly be) not only read but listened as well?
12
votes
3answers
286 views

Avoiding Deus Ex Machina resolutions?

Most Crime/Thriller Novels usually have a sudden, unexpected plot twist that puts the main character in a really hopeless situation. One way to resolve this is by using a "Deus Ex Machina", that is a ...
12
votes
5answers
559 views

How much should I describe things or persons, that are not important for the story?

I discussed a book with a friend, and he disliked that the author described a person who is dying shortly after and has no further effect on the story over a page or more. The same would go for ...
12
votes
2answers
1k views

What needs to be included in a corporate style guide?

What kinds of things need to be included in a corporate style guide that can't already be found in S&W, AP, Chicago Style, etc?
12
votes
4answers
409 views

How do you map out your storyline?

There are various ways for mapping out the storyline that you will use for a story. One of them is to create a bullet-point outline, which would theoretically be useful because of the hierarchy system ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

Writing 19th century upperclass English dialog

I was recently rereading bits of Pride and Prejudice and the dialog is absolutely brilliant. How can I learn to write dialog that sounds like it is from this general era? For example are there any ...
12
votes
7answers
2k views

Why does using this “-ing” verb construction make my writing weaker?

I had to write a scholarship essay, wherein I wrote this sentence: Over the ensuing years I read as much as I could, trying to increase my knowledge and understanding of my own language. I sent ...
12
votes
2answers
358 views

Getting emotional while writing, good or bad?

Once in a while I get really emotional when writing. Writing about love, jealousy or even thinking about a simple scene in which a father plays with his child can get some strong emotional responses ...
12
votes
5answers
574 views

When is a prologue useful?

Prologues tend to get a bad rap on the internet, and sometimes for good reason. They're often used by as an excuse to start a novel with an info-dump. However, it seems to me that people often ...
12
votes
5answers
535 views

Is discovery or outline writing connected to personality type (e.g. MBTI)

I'm on a bit of a Myers-Briggs spree at the moment (which is dangerous, because it is so easy to read way more into it than you are supposed to). For those of you who are not familiar with it, it is ...
12
votes
2answers
67 views

Notes Placement

Why is it standard for a book's notes to be placed at the very end of the book—book endnotes—while only a small minority of books place each chapter's notes at the end of each respective ...
12
votes
4answers
406 views

How can I transition from academic writing to fiction writing?

I always receive the same critique when I write fiction. The critique is good for my characters and plot, but I am told that my writing style is stiff, awkward and amateurish. When I wrote academic ...
11
votes
4answers
501 views

When should I avoid the passive voice? When might I use it?

An opinion exists that overusing of the passive voice can make writing harder for reading and understanding. Is it true for all kinds of writing? How to follow this advice without overemphasizing it? ...
11
votes
4answers
380 views

How do you vary dialogue within stories?

How do you vary dialogue within stories? I often find myself writing "'sentence/dialogue' said character", and it sometimes gets really repetitive. How is this managed? These are the only words that ...
11
votes
9answers
458 views

Initial Writing Medium

I am curious which is better for a beginning writer (or writer) starting a new story. Pen and paper or the computer? Pen & Paper is a lot more sketchy (like the layout of this site) which gives ...
11
votes
9answers
925 views

Where to find some good examples of combat or action scenes?

I always learn a lot about about writing by reading other works and following their examples. Right now I'm very bad at writing action scenes; the best I can do is write around them, describing the ...
11
votes
4answers
27k views

Citation in AP style journalism

I'm writing feature articles and trying to adhere to AP style, but I'm not sure how to attribute a source. I'm familiar with academic citation (APA, MLA), but have never done this in journalism. ...
11
votes
4answers
185 views

What are the usual methods for getting a daily word count?

Do, normally, only words which are eventually to be kept count, or do you also count rewrites? For example, if I rewrite a 50 word paragraph 10 times, is my daily count up to 50 or up to 500?
10
votes
3answers
211 views

Is it a good idea to write a summary of a plot before writing the full version?

Sometimes when I write a plot I get confused about the motivations of the characters and how events connect as I change elements. Is it a good idea to write a summary first in order to organise ...
10
votes
5answers
504 views

Switching POV: Should it ever be done at all?

When I started, I had a nasty habit of hopping from perspective to perspective to perspective. I forced myself down to one perspective per chapter, but I still wonder if it's acceptable to do it at ...