Friday, January 18, 2019

Writing: More Things An Author Needs To Know

Here are a few more of the things an author needs to avoid--call them rules, call them suggestions, but they're important if you want to be successful in writing.

1. Using passive words and construction: Active verbs tend to involve the reader. Writing in the passive voice is generally to be avoided.

2. Generalization: Avoid "things" and similar words. Be specific and concrete. If you can't think of a word, use a thesaurus or dictionary. Don't make your reader guess.

3. Telling instead of showing: The classic example is Chekhov, who said not to tell him the moon was shining, but to show the glitter on the water. (He also said that if a gun is mentioned early on, it later should be fired).

4. Neglecting transitions: Avoid jerkiness. One paragraph should flow seamlessly into the next.

5. Not reading your work aloud: This not only helps see whether the work needs further editing, but is especially helpful in determining whether what you're writing would do well in an audio version.

6. Overuse of dialogue tags: "Said" is a perfectly good word. The use of "...interjected" or "...exclaimed" or "...whispered" calls to mind rule #3. Let your words show emotion, rather than describing them.

7. Not inviting or accepting criticism: Some authors don't let anyone read their work until it's finished. Others use beta-readers or critique groups. But, even though writing is a lonely business, get another set of eyes (maybe several) on your work...and then listen to it. This varies with the expertise of the person giving the critique, but if two or three experienced readers say it should be changed, then change it.

What do you think? Have you seen writers flaunt these suggestions? Did they get away with it?

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2 comments:

Priscilla said...

These are awesome rules. Recently I read a book (not Christian fiction, another genre) that did not follow rule number 4 about transitions as the book progressed. But it was appropriate because the narrator, the protagonist, was going insane, so the story line jumped around like the increasingly bizarre thoughts in his head.

Richard Mabry said...

Priscilla, I suppose that a narrator with mental illness would allow one to ignore the usual admonition against lack of smooth transitions. Matter of fact, if well-done, it could show that illness.