Don’t do this! Don’t do that! Don’t you ever DARE think about doing that! Filthy writing muggle! Good writers NEVER resort to that! Dirty, Dirty, Dirty!
I’m not joking when I say ‘if I have to read one more list of so-called ‘rules of writing’, I am going to chin someone.
Yet another one popped up yesterday, with the usual stuff – adverbs bad, only use said so it becomes invisible to the reader (am I the only reader out there who finds that annoying? Even as a kid, the repetition of ‘said’ irritated me. I conform now because so many people tell me its the right thing to do, but it does annoy me just a teeny bit), make every word count etc – and, as usual, half of it conflicted with stuff on other lists and other advice you get (exactly how do I be true to myself and write what I want to write when I’ve also got to do as you say or my writing is worthless?).
I think it all came to a head when, last night, I found myself agonising for half an hour on how to remove the word ‘suddenly’ from a sentence. No matter how much I rewrote, rejigged and revised, that little forbidden word was what it needed – sometimes, things do happen suddenly, and whilst I agree it is a hideously overused word, it is still a word there to be used. But I know that if I keep it in there, what feels like a million people will all jump on me, screeching ‘NO ADVERBS! NO SUDDENLY! WEAK WRITING!’ until my eardrums burst.
Then there’s the absolute joy of trying to write emotion and not resorting to cliche. And yes *weary sigh, I know too much is a bad thing, but sheesh, whether we like it or not, hearts do pump when you’re scared, people do glance at each other when they fancy one another and teeth do grit when you’re in pain. When tingling toes, or frazzling hair is a sign someone fancies someone else, I’ll use it. But until then… what? Just WHAT, Mr List? How exactly do I get my characters into a place where the reader believes the might just have a thing for each other without resorting to something my readers recognise within themselves?
I know these lists are meant to be a helpful guide to steer people in the right direction, but when you’re being told ‘don’t use ‘was’, or ‘get rid of all uses of there was / there were / was + ing constructions’, it gets a bit much. Yes, try to restrict their use and use stronger verbs instead, but get rid of them completely? Seriously – give it a go. Try to remove every single bad thing these lists say are mortal sins from your writing. Because I have tried it, and I ended up with a nonsensical piece of utter shite. And to make that a readable piece, I ended up with a blank page.
Claire has had 3 hours sleep and is in a terrible grump this morning. Let’s just call this ‘The List That Broke The Camel’s Back…’
NB: I will note my amusement in the amount of boobs I had to trawl through to find an appropriate picture for this blog. Who knew a ‘Novel Writing Rules’ image search would deliver boobies? They really do get everywhere…