Writing Rules

Dear Readers:

I readily admit I am a perfectionist. And an avid rule-follower. A number of these rules (aka guidelines?) are preached by creative writing teachers in classes, in professional writer magazines, and on the internet. Yet when I read famous published authors these regulations seem to be selectively overlooked. So here is my answer to some of these myths:

  • Show, don’t tell. I am acquiring this skill, practicing putting a picture in my reader’s brains rather than a statement of fact under their reading eyeballs. But there are times when it is gobs more efficient to say in one sentence what needs paragraphs or even entire pages to insinuate. And what about the ephemeral, misty descriptions that may describe a gut feeling or a change in attitude – something intangible that floats below the surface? Seems like in these instances, telling is a good idea.
  • Write what you know. What I know best is being a woman, a wife, a mom – all things already scooped. My professional career dealing with clinical laboratory tests may be interesting to technical publications but it will take some work to build that sort of experience into an interesting memoire or mystery or romance. My debut novel is an adventure taking place in the 1930’s – before I was born. So it has taken research and perseverance to write something I don’t know. Hopefully it works.
  • Kill your darlings. Who gets credit for this tidbit? In 1914, the British writer Arthur Quiller-Couch stated emphatically that an author’s beloved yet excessive words, ideas, and characters should be murdered. Realizing I need to write lean, mean, and clean, making every word count, I’m learning to recognize needless verbiage. Isn’t that an improvement?
  • Grow a hide as thick as rhinoceros skin to ward off the harpoons hurled by critics. I think a better approach is to listen to what is probably a bit painful but also the best, most useful, applicable information you can hear. Don’t let your thick skin cover an equally thick skull.

Looks like I’ve become one of the selective authors mentioned above. I hope the famous, published part comes along with it. The plot thickens.


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