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92

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 ...


37

My experience has been lack of context and mystery most quickly grab my attention. I believe this has to do with the need of the human mind to create order and solve problems. Perhaps examples will illustrate this. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Cold April day, northern hemisphere... clocks striking... ...


37

"Purple prose" is overwrought metaphors, melodramatic and clichéd phrasing, and cartoonish actions. She gasped, her snow-white breast heaving, and her emerald eyes filled with tears. "How could you! You vile beast!" she sobbed. "I loved you and you — you used me!" "I never loved you," he announced, cool as a glacier in January. "You were the ...


35

You could try reading the final draft out loud either to yourself or to another person. (That's what I have always had my own children do when they're working on school essays.) Reading out loud slows you down so that you are less likely to read over a duplicated word and it will be more obvious when a word is left out. It is also a good method for ...


34

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 ...


29

In contrast to others here, I don't think specific edit questions are appropriate for this site, so I will answer your question in a general (do-it-yourself) way: This is a method from Andreas Eschbach. If you know German, read the original text. I will only summarise it here: First print out your text (yes, you need it on paper). Pick a small text passage ...


29

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 ...


24

As everyone has said already, writing is ultimately the key. The more you write the better you will be at it. But I would like to also address the reading aspect of your question. You are right that most people, at some point in their lives, will have read 10,000 hours worth. But how many people think critically about it? How many people say, "Wow, I ...


22

I haven't done actual editing, but I've done a fair bit of critique and review. I think the issues are pretty much the same. Standard proviso: everybody has their own system. Of writing, of reading, of editing. Obviously your system isn't "wrong," even if nobody else does it; nor is it "right" merely because you may find that everybody does it. But that's ...


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 ...


21

Seems to me that consistency is a big thing. Internal consistency and external consistency. External consistency: on Numb3rs, they use real mathematical jargon assuming people will not understand it and will accept it at the Wikipedia level of understanding. But I actually do understand many of the techniques they talk about and they simply cannot be used ...


21

Read from the bottom up. It derails the comprehension so it's much easier to see individual words, and you catch many more typos and dropped words.


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

Yes, for a very simple reason: If you can type blind, that means you have moved all the necessary control to move words from your brain into the computer into your backbone -- where it doesn't need conscious control anymore. This means your conscious is free to concentrate on your work instead of "Where is the letter w? Press w Where is ... o ... r ... d". ...


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 ...


18

I think you're off to a good start by killing the adjectives and adverbs. Overuse of modifiers are the #1 reason I reject a piece of fiction writing. Some thoughts: a specific, active verb is worth a dozen adjectives adverbs more often shore up weak verbs (ie "he ran quickly across the room" ... how about "he bolted across the room" or something like ...


18

On one side of the spectrum, some ways of describing have the particularity that, instead of describing all of the character, they define them little by little. For instance: I. You can highlight their body while they do something. a) Indirectly: I gladly helped her take the book from the high shelf. (Implying a tall character) b) Directly: ...


17

As usually with all riddles, start from the end - what the prophecy describes. Write or at least plan thoroughly the story, leaving a placeholder where the prophecy has to go. Then sum up the events that are to be prophesized, actors involved, their role, the effects. Try to get that into about the size you want your prophecy to take. And then get to ...


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.


16

There is a wonderful book by Dorothea Brande called Becoming A Writer, published in 1934, but still widely read today and often cited. In it Brande talks about developing two selves for the writer, a split personality, with one self being a creative, sensitive and artistic person and the other being a detail-obsessed sharp minded editor. The two ...


16

A non-technical test reader would be a helpful resource. Because of your knowledge you are blind for so many details, which you take for granted and couldn't believe that other do not know them. Listen to a test reader, what he does not understand, is the way to identify these blind spots. The problem with this approach: you need regularly new test readers, ...


16

This isn't really any different than any other important information you want to get across early. Here's a few thoughts: A character considering how s/he might look to others is classic and pretty non-intrusive - e.g. "Somehow, people just see my blond hair and my perky smile, and never imagine such a cheerful, innocent-looking person might be a private ...


15

Here are a few editing tips that I use when going through manuscript for publishers: Do a search for the word “that.” Read the sentence aloud. If the sentence makes sense without the word “that,” please delete this word. Do a search for the word “it.” If at all possible, replace the word “it” with a more concrete noun or phrase. Example: It didn’t matter. ...


15

Basically, anything that the reader considers implausible when he's already suspending disbelief, can spoil the illusion and break that suspension. The key issue to understand is that up to a certain point, your story is exposing the world of the story, and explaining what's allowed and what isn't. Anything you establish clearly, the reader will be willing ...


14

All terms are defined within the section. Either no outside references or optional ones, or include the information so the reader doesn't have to reference anything. Any background or history necessary to understand the material in the section is included. If applicable, include a paragraph with predictions about the future of the material or potential ...



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