September 15, 2014
The trouble with any list of writing rules is that it implies there is only one way to do it. The very nature of art is to push the rules, to transcend techniques. But as Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj once said, “You cannot transcend what you do not know.” It is important to master some writing elements in order to legitimately move beyond them in an artistic way. You cannot “think outside the box” if the box has never been defined. With this in mind, here are 8 “secrets” to good writing rules:
1. Your opening paragraph is critical. In the first few sentences, you set the tone and capture the reader’s attention. The rest of your piece is irrelevant if there is no one reading it.
2. Your duty is to entertain. You may be tempted to include your life’s philosophy or some abstract mental gymnastics, but your readers crave entertainment. Give them what they want.
3. Show, don’t tell. This is a short way of telling you to refrain from writing ideas. Write descriptions instead.
4. Conflict is your friend. Without conflict, your story would be pointless. Give proper respect to the antagonist, the adversity, or the opposing forces in your story. If you short-change the power of the negative, your positive will be powerless also.
5. All things must resolve. Your readers have followed you on a journey that needs a resolution. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending, but something must feel like it has been finalized.
6. Don’t get obsessive with adjectives and adverbs. Great writers learn to use precise nouns and verbs to move the story forward in a powerful way. Too many adjectives and adverbs feels desperate and “gimmicky.”
7. Powerful sentences are often short. Hemingway once said, “Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.”
8. If you can be misread, you will be. If you wonder about a certain turn of the phrase, assume the worst. Find a better way to say it. By all means, prior to publishing, get as many eyes reviewing your work as possible.
We hope you found these 8 writing rules helpful.Copyright 2014, Charles J. Chamberlain
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