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Wednesday Writing Tip: 10 Rules for Writing Fiction



Here are 10 rules/takeaways for writing fiction in general. I hope they help you in your writing.


1. Read your writing aloud when you edit.

Simple practice, this one. Writing should sound conversational. Nobody says ‘accoutrements’ or ‘parsimonious’, they say ‘accessories’ or ‘frugal’. By reading your work aloud, you can discover what words cut the flow of a sentence, and thus, what words to omit.


2. Avoid prologues

Especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, but it's OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: "I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks."


3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But "said" is far less intrusive than "grumbled", "gasped", "cautioned", "lied". I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated" and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.


4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" ... he admonished gravely.

To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".


5. Keep your exclamation points ­under control.

You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.


6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose".

This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use "suddenly" tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.


7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.


8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, places and things.

Fiction writing is about nothing more than story. Chunks of text that go into too much detail to describe something will halt that progression, and you’ll lose your reader.

Again, it comes down to interpretation. Give away just enough about a scene that the reader can reference it in their head, but let them design the rest of the set, while you focus on driving the plot forward.

9. Increase your word power. Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more ­effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. Respect it.


10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

Happy Writing!

From IABX ***Source Internet

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