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Restrictions on Your writing

Cathbad

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Don't use filter words... Don't use adjectives... Narrative voice restrictions... How many articles are out there listing words you should never use?

When you can use quotation marks... When you can use italics... Careful how you use punctuations other than periods!! No info dumps - ever!... Show, don't tell...

Grammar rules aside, does it seem to anyone but me that there are just too many restrictions put on writers?
 

tegeus-Cromis

a better poet than swordsman
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May 17, 2019
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I see them not as rules, but helpful suggestions. Like that little paper clip guy that use to show up on my laptop.
But that little paperclip guy was, like, super-annoying! :)

Oh, I break a few myself!!!!

;)
From your post, I assumed you would.

The best rules I can think of are:

A) read a lot, and read critically, and
B) write mindfully.
 

sknox

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I'm not sure what the complaint is here. Most of the warnings I read have to do with things that beginning writers tend to do badly; for example, they over-use adjectives. One worthwhile approach is to resolve to cut out all of them, then add them in only when they are absolutely necessary.

I often reach for comparisons with other arts. In music, learn to play those basic scales and chord progressions. Master them. Then you can move on to minor sevenths and diminished chords and Myxolodian mode (or whatever). Or, to paraphrase Dali, master the masters, then you can break the rules.
 

ckatt

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I think the rules come from a well meaning place but are poor distillations of better advice. They require the explanations that often disappear when saddled with bullet points.
And I think for a lot of people it's just easier to say 'don't do it' rather than explain where and why since most of the time they're talking about things that should be done sparingly.
 

Steve Harrison

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I'm glad the internet wasn't around when I started writing. It meant I couldn't ask for advice and had to find out what works and what doesn't through trial and error.

I get that new writers (and old ones like me) tend to do some things badly, but telling them not to do them is not doing them any favours at all and they miss out on valuable learning experiences.
 

-K2-

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As I try to learn how to write, hopefully, improving with each paragraph, as I learn various rules I have my own rule to apply them.

First off, I write as best I can, freely, though try and apply various rules when they strike me (Ex.: when I realize I've stacked up a bunch of excessive prepositional phrases, I'll try and break it up, merge them, whatever). When finished, I re-read through and try to apply the various rules. Some I simply can't make work, so I move on. Others, I apply where possible. Next, due to my skill level, I'll then use something like 'slickwrite' and do my darndest to apply every rule infraction that it notes... Everything, all of them. Those I can't make work, I then study up to learn how to make the fix...

Okay, so at that point I've chopped up what once read beautifully 'to me' (at first blush), and made it as rule-proper as I can get it. When re-reading it, much of the flow, rise and fall, tempo and so on is now lost... BUT, it's by the rules. Then I do a free edit. IOW, I go back and as I re-read, I make it flow to 'my tastes.' Rules be darned. In fact, if I want to change something and I know it's breaking a rule, I break it anyway and make it read well to me.

Point being, I realize I do need to learn and understand these rules. However, at the end of the day, the read must be enjoyable, smooth, descriptive and entertaining. I'm not writing an example text on proper writing. I'm writing a story... Those rule changes before hand, however, I hope helps what I write to accomplish both a little better.

K2
 

pyan

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'Rules' is a strong word - I'd have said 'guidelines' is more accurate. But even these are only down to current taste and saleability - and even that's no longer that important with the advent of cheap self-publishing. Certainly some of the stuff I've seen on my Kindle would never have made it under the traditional publishing regime.
You've got to ask yourself how sensible those 'rules' are when they've have been broken time and again by the top-selling authors - JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien, GRR Martin, David Weber, Tom Clancy, etc. Dan Brown in particular is scoffed at by the literati - but, with sales of over 200 million books, I'm sure he's laughing all the way to the bank...
 

Cathbad

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I'm not sure what the complaint is here. Most of the warnings I read have to do with things that beginning writers tend to do badly; for example, they over-use adjectives. One worthwhile approach is to resolve to cut out all of them, then add them in only when they are absolutely necessary.
No complaint, just observation. In fact, I actually agree with most of these so-called 'rules' I've seen.
 

HareBrain

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I'm surprised when people say "Article X tells me to do this, but writer Y does it differently". Why are you expecting opinion pieces on writing to be any more trustworthy than those on politics? Since you can find an opinion piece on either subject to back up any stance you want to take, just do that. Read books by successful writers (whatever you want to mean by "successful", which might simply be "I loved this") and figure out how they do it.
 

Brian G Turner

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Grammar rules aside, does it seem to anyone but me that there are just too many restrictions put on writers?
All these "rules" being published are just guides to help new writers think more and better understand what they are doing, in order to potentially make their story stronger and better.

I really wish I'd known more about the technicalities of writing when I was younger, instead of years stumbling in the dark with no idea of what I was doing right or wrong.

It's easy to dismiss these guides once your writing is better developed, but I think we sometimes take what we've learned a little for granted.
 

HareBrain

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years stumbling in the dark with no idea of what I was doing right or wrong
I think it's an interesting question why writing seems almost alone in activities whose practitioners find it so hard to judge their own work. It's true to an extent in all art forms, I guess, but it seems to take a far greater proportion of writers far longer to develop self-critical faculties. I know at once if a drawing looks right. I almost never find old artworks (done since adulthood anyway) which I thought were great at the time and reappraise them as rubbish, but I regularly do this with writing done only a couple of years back -- and just as often, vice versa. And then sometimes back again. Why? Is there something "unnatural" about language -- or at least, the way we use language in fiction -- that means we're always stumbling about in the dark to some extent?
 

Lumens

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Is there something "unnatural" about language -- or at least, the way we use language in fiction -- that means we're always stumbling about in the dark to some extent?
Art is self expression and not communication, at least not as direct as language is. Self expression is an attempt at capturing a wave of emotion in the mind and putting it out there - something that is not always as concrete as a series of words. Maybe that's the problem with language - that it's often too far removed from the abstract world of firing synapses in the brain?
 

sknox

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I like the point K2 made: apply the rules during the edit.

So often when I hear people express resistance or criticism of "the rules" it is along the lines of resisting because they will disrupt the creative process. But the two can co-exist. Write as freely as you care to during the first draft--or during major rewrites. But at some point, when the story is largely done, you should check your spelling, right? Why not also check on the hundred-and-one other elements of grammar and style? When you're making sure you don't have doubled words or a spelling mistake, you're hardly in creative mode. Check your adverbs too.

There's no conflict between creativity and clarity.
 

L.L.Lotte

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The only "rule" I care about is that there are no "rules" when it comes to creative writing. ;)

I think of it as all being a bit of a myth, to be honest.



Obviously correct grammar and spelling is a necessity, but that isn't the point of this thread.
 
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