There are rules to writing. And only when you get really good at knowing them and playing within their confines can you break them.
This list on the rules of writing was posted in The Guardian, a newspaper here in the UK. It’s frigging brilliant, and while much of it is tongue in cheek, there are some really excellent tips as well.
One, in particular: Adverbs are a mortal sin. ‘she said angrily‘. DO NOT DO THIS. The dialogue should make clear her emotions, and the adverb is redundant. You almost never need an adverb, or a word like the above which ends in -ly, as they tend to just restate the obvious and mark your work as amateur. Angrily, hungrily, sadly, etc ad infinitum. Make your dialogue or action show the reader, and they’ll follow.
And another important rule: writing is work. It is not magic, it is not a given, you are not perfect and that perfect sentence you wrote may very well be cut by your editor. Writing is a craft, and like any craft, it takes years to become a really great author. Which may not be recognized until you’re dead.
Here is something simple that I’ve been working with a few people on: redundant or over used words.
If you’re writing in the past tense, saying ’now they were ready’ or ‘now she was there’ doesnt make any sense. Unless you’re writing in first person, the word now can almost always be cut.
The same goes for smiles, eyes, lips and gazes. Too many of these, and you risk having a body-less form floating around with nothing but eyes and smiles. And locked gazes are the stuff of bodice rippers. Avoid the cliché and find another way to describe that moment of tension. Unless you’re writing a bodice ripper. In which case, carry on.
We all have pet words we use in everyday life, and we tend to find one we get enamored with when we’re writing–that’s okay. But be ready to change that pet word when your editor gets hold of your work. Because readers do notice the constant use of a word like ‘awesome’ or ‘smiled’ or ‘enumerated.’
Okay, I’ll leave it at that. Check out the list, though. It’s a good read and well written to boot.