There are so many “rules” to writing: don’t use adverbs, write every day, write what you know, etc., etc., etc.
Of course, all rules really are meant to be broken, but in order to break them, you have to learn them first. To me, it’s like a ballroom dancer who has to learn what the rules of his/her dances are so they can know where to push the boundaries without getting disqualified. Or a gymnast knowing where they can add expression and individuality while still nailing the elements of their program.
I found an article tonight on the Guardian called Ten rules for writing fiction. It’s a fantastic article because it’s not only ten rules – it’s multiple rules each from a ton of well-known writers. I haven’t even finished reading it yet. I’ll be bookmarking it to come back and learn the rules I need to break or bend.
Anyway I got far enough to see Elmore Leonard’s rule, “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” (#6). I suppose this rule caught me because I’ve been realizing the last few days my tendency to overuse “finally” in first drafts: “She finally spoke…”, “He finally took the drink from my hand…” You get the idea. I try not to think about words as they’re appearing beneath my fingertips but tonight I was hyper-conscious of my finallys and in 146 words, I managed to have only one “finally” by the time I was done. (And yes, I was aware that I censored at least one more – I can’t help it!)
Do you have a word or phrase you find yourself unintentionally overusing? I’d love to hear it. And I’d love to hear how you get around it.
Have a good night all and to answer your question, yes I wrote last night (32 words ;) so my Olympic challenge is still going strong!
Update: Ha! Right after I posted this, WordPress gave me the following quote: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham. Appropriate, wouldn’t you say?