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91

Show, Don't Tell This may very well be the most popular "rule" of writing. It refers to the idea that it's better to "show" an event as a scene, rather than simply "telling" the reader what happened. In my opinion, this is mostly sound advice: Don't tell us the 5000-year history of your fantasy setting in the prologue. Show it to us throughout the ...


55

Give yourself permission to suck. That's not to say just write bad stuff, but don't stress about the quality of your writing when you are writing it. Stressing about the quality of the work can keep you from writing and even cause writer's block. You have to accept that what you write won't be perfect at first, but you can fix it when you do your edits and ...


52

Stay off the Internet when you're writing. It's no timeworn tidbit, but I'll venture it's axiomatic. A timely example: Ten minutes ago I was primed to cap off a chapter. Now here I am, chapter-capless, browsing and clicking and typing and web-clipping, pasting notes that will make great endings or even greater stored kilobytes I'll never again ask my CPU ...


50

Cut Adjectives and Adverbs This "rule" is often stated more forcefully as "remove all adjectives and adverbs," but, like most of these rules, I don't think it should be blindly followed. Sometimes, an adjective or an adverb is the best way to get across exactly what you're trying to say. The main time to avoid using them is when a stronger noun or verb ...


44

Write, Don't Edit! The most important rule of all. Everything else is secondary. Even "Show, don't tell". It is the editor in your head you have to fight. He is nagging you: "You can't do that! What shit have you written here? Are you serious? You will never be a good writer, if you keep doing scribbling this nonsense!" Well, you can do, you are serious ...


33

The list so far (alphabetically): Cut adjectives and adverbs Don't go into great detail describing places or things Give yourself permission to suck Know the end before you begin Miscellaneous Show, don't tell Stay off the internet while writing Use correct grammar, punctuation and spelling Write, don't edit Writing is rewriting You have to read, and read ...


28

You have to read, and read all the time. There are no iron laws of writing. I'm sure that if I told you that it was impossible to do good writing without reading much, someone could find a handful of examples of great writers who barely read. But for the rest of us normal human beings, writing isn't something that happens in a vacuum. To understand writing ...


26

Writing is Rewriting You've completed your first draft. Congratulations! Next step is to send it to an agent or a publisher, right? Not quite yet. Especially if you are relatively new to the writing game, you will spend a lot more time revising your manuscript than you did writing the first draft. More than you think it needs now. More than you think ...


21

Don’t go into great detail describing places and things This is one of Elmore Leonard's "Ten Rules." I selected it from the list almost at random -- all ten are worth heeding. I love it because it's so counterintuitive -- you want to add color and detail to your story, right? No, you don't. You want to add story to your story, and just enough descriptive ...


19

Use correct grammar and punctuation (and of course, spelling) Style doesn't mean squat if your manuscript doesn't flow due to incorrect spelling, grammar and punctuation. There's a reason why the "rules" are there be followed. They work. I thought of this is after making my own contribution to this question.


18

I like Elmore Leonard's 10 rules: Never open a book with weather. Avoid prologues. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. Never use the words ...


16

Know the end before you begin. Everything has to lead up to the end. The climax is the culmination of everything in the story. By knowing the end, you can include powerful foreshadowing and ensure that you don't go off on useless tangents.


11

As you say, DOIs are becoming dominate in scientific publishing, so it would be useful to have one in that arena. On the other hand ISBN (And it's cousin, the ISSN) are still the main way to identify a publication. There is also a lot of useful things that the ISBN number is used for. Right now you can put an ISBN number into pretty much any bookseller (or ...


9

You must learn to walk before you can run The most important rule is, first to learn to write according to the rules. When you master that, you can break them to get better results. But, like in anything where mastering a topic is hard, breaking the rules without understanding them will get really ugly. For true beauty, following the rules however does ...


8

This is what I learned the hard way. The rules are there to support you in getting from A to B and do a decent job regardless of skill level. Following a set of tried and trusted rules allows you as the author room to concentrate on the aspects of a story that you find interesting. Following rules is like a less restrictive form of re-telling an established ...


8

There are almost no rules which have "no exceptions." (Which ones are the "no exceptions" is an exercise left to the student.) Your writing tends to be flowy and lyrical. Tightening it up does add some motion and spark to it. I wouldn't tighten everything, because sometimes you want "flowy and lyrical." I think tightening in general is a good thing, but ...


6

When to break the rules? When you know what you're doing. Breaking the rules "the good way" always serves some purpose. It's never done "just because". Writing is all about eliciting certain moods and feelings in the reader, and the rules prevent jarring, unpleasant surprises, breaking of immersion, and countless other errors that simply take away from the ...


4

"Said" is All You Need to Say My favorite writing teacher, way back in the day, told me--rightly--that it is very rarely necessary to use more than the word "said" when writing dialogue, particularly using adverbs. Almost every time I find myself wanting to use constructions like, "He said excitedly," or the like, I realize I'm better off just saying ...


4

Write in the Active Voice I'm surprised that no one has mentioned active vs. passive voice (for a good discussion, see this Q&A. Like many "rules," there are various reasons to decide otherwise, but in general the active voice is stronger than the passive.


4

How to Write Good The first set of rules was written by Frank L. Visco and originally published in the June 1986 issue of Writers' digest. The second set of rules is derived from William Safire's Rules for Writers. Avoid alliteration. Always. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old ...


4

This sounds like a very scientific approach to something that's not a science. :-) In any case, Wikipedia's article on Genre Fiction is probably as good a place to start as any. From there, you can click on links for more detailed analyses of genres that look interesting to you. That said, you're not actually going to be able to effectively mix genres ...


4

There is no answer. "3" (if you can actually count them) side-stories can be too much. Even 1 can... if you want to write (or rather, if the story demands to be) a simple story. 3 can be too many. But 100 can be just right. It depends. Haven't read the Wheel of Time yet, but I've heard it contains lots of side-stories. Too many? Some surely think so, ...


3

In a way, the advice to cut out unnecessary words is solid advice. The trouble is working out what is "unnecessary". By the time you can work that out, you probably don't need the advice any more. Too many writers think it means that every word needs to be communicating new information, which is fine if you are just trying to get facts across. But in ...


2

In the publishing world, ISBNs are the standard. They're rarely reused (though it does happen on occasion) and it's how most booksellers and the like will be able to find a book quickly. I've never heard of someone using a DOI over an ISBN. Most people wouldn't even know what a DOI is.


2

I'm not sure there is a hard and fast number, but there are other ways you can measure if the side story is acceptable. What does having it in your story achieve. If it's just there to fill out the word count is it worth having it there at all? On the other hand, if the story story helps move the plot along or helps develop the characters it might be worth ...


2

Yes, there is a respected rule: Skip the boring stuff! It depends on your story, on your style and what you want to show. If you have a gunslinger and you want to establish how good he is, you may want to describe in detail his fight against five other people which only lasts a few seconds to a minute. If the reader already knows how good he is, just ...


2

There are no rules; there is only what works, and you have to be the judge of that. But there are aids. Whenever you write multiple works using the same characters, you should keep a concordance. This is a set of notes about characters and plot points, which you can refer to later when you forget what color hair a character has or who said or did what to ...


2

The rules are there to give a pretty good outline of what is good writing and what is bad writing. Breaking a "rule" typically requires doing something else to accommodate it, and this web of complexity typically requires an experienced writer who knows these connections. For example, one rule you might hear would be to stay away from cliches. But there are ...


2

This is a very difficult topic. But this is something that I've noticed over the years: when a beginner breaks a rule you feel like he has broken a rule, when an expert breaks a rule you feel like he wanted to break that rule. The best example I can come up with is the movie Adaptation. In the movie, the protagonist (Charlie Kaufman) says: Okay. But, ...



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