As brave as a lion: a non-lesson in the rules of writing

I’m a jump in the pool without checking the temperature kind of girl. I don’t particularly love instructions, and I never ever follow a recipe. I don’t like schedules, and I hate when people tell me what to do. I bet you can guess my surprise when I stumbled upon all the rules that came along with creative writing….

Now before I get started, I want to clarify that this post is in no way a how to guide. If you’re looking for someone to tell you how to write, keep on walking because that’s not me. But if you want someone to empathise, to throw an arm around your shoulder and say “I’m here for you man.” Grab a seat. There’s a beer in the fridge.

Before I get started with the rules, let me tell you a bit about how I came upon them. One day I was talking with my best friend, and she told me she was going to write a book. “Cool!” I said, and continued to follow her on her journey, sucking in her enthusiasm as she progressed. Before long, I’d eaten the brownies too, and started dreaming up characters for my own story. Imaginary people were keeping me up at night, and I finally started to write their story down.  Within a month, I wrote almost 70K words of my first draft of “Coming Home To You” (title subject to change as I see fit.) Crazy!  But it was pretty much crap, and I knew I needed help.

Those seventy thousand words were what lead me to a little site called Scribophile, and where my stumble into the world of writing began. Where all the rules were presented to me on a silver platter, and I will now reveal those same rules to you.

1. Never ever use an exclamation mark!  EVER!!!  Okay, you may use one every 10,000 words, though preferably less. “WHAT?!” you say. I know. I get you. I’m a former exclamation mark junky, myself. I freaking love them, still use them way too much, but this rule must be followed, or bad things will happen to you. If you want to read more about exclamation marks and fiction writing, check this out. http://laurastanfill.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/using-the-exclamation-point-in-fiction/

2. Words that end in LY are bad. HorribLY, AtrociousLY bad. “They’re adverbs, they’re descriptive words. You’d think they’d be okay?”  Yes, I know…I feel you man… but no. Not if you use them too often. This is an indication that you are “telling” too much. I will get into that later, but if you want to read more about why, here you go. http://www.users.qwest.net/~yarnspnr/writing/adverbs/adverbs.htm

3. ING words. Yep, too many of these little babies, and you’re on the path to very bad things. It’s called a gerund. A word I’d never heard before in my life before starting, setting, I began my little journey. If you want to read more about gerunds, check this out http://worddreams.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/writers-tip-5-beware-the-gerund/

4. Don’t use the same word twice.  Okay, that’s a little dramatic.  But for all that’s holy, don’t use it in the same paragraph, and NEVER in the same sentence. The reason?  Lazy writing. More here. http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/5-ways-to-deal-with-word-repetition

5. Cliches.  What is a cliche you ask? “Only time will tell.”  “When you have lemons, make lemonade.” “Cat got your tongue?” Yes, cliches are all those little saying that everyone on earth knows the meaning to. So for God’s sake, don’t go putting them in your story! Make something up, then pray your readers understand what the hell you’re talking about. More on cliches, and why you should avoid them. http://writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/cliche.html

6. And last, (I’ll save the others for another day.) “SHOW, don’t TELL.”

“What the F does that mean?” If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re not alone. That’s exactly what went through my mind the first time I heard it.  Basically, telling is going through the motions.  Showing, is giving an experience for your reader. Sound, touch, taste, smell, and sight. Again, if you want to read more on the subject, check this out. http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/showing-and-telling-the-basics.html

I know… It’s a bit overwhelmING.  BUT, every rule was created for a reason. I’ve grown tremendousLY since joining Scribophile, and I’m grateful to every single person who’s taken the time to point these rules out to me. I’m still learnING, still growING, and still figurING everythING out. But I’ll get there, and so will you.

So with that, I know it’s frustrating, but whatever you do, don’t get your knickers in a bunch. Be brave as a lion. Not weak as a kitten. You are a diamond in the rough, and I’ll see you on the other side. 😉

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