Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Don't, Don't, Don't!

Does it ever feel like you've piled up a collection of don'ts that thwarts your every move? Don't start with your character waking up. Don't start with the first day of school. Don't tell. Don't use adverbs. Don't complicate your dialogue tags. Don't let the middle lag. Don't write in the passive voice. Don't write a prologue. Don't use exclamation points. Don't use words you wouldn't actually use in real life.

Need more? Here's a list from Strange Horizons of all the things they don't want to see.

Okay, all these don'ts are correct, but it can get a little overwhelming at times. How about we compile a list of dos? Positive reinforcement.

Here's the first:
1. Do enjoy what you're writing.

Reader's log:
47. The Bradbury Report - Steven Polansky


  1. As a writer you really have to Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive. Sorry, that YouTube video got me feeling retro ;).

    You're right, though. You can get so bogged down in what not to do that you forget how to do.

  2. how come you can't use adverbs?

    that's just dumb.

  3. DO break as many of those rules as you want in your first draft! Plenty of time to go back and revise later if something doesn't work for YOUR BOOK.

  4. @Shawna - The idea is that they get in the way of clarity. Many writing books encourage the slaying of all adverbs, instead replacing them with strong verbs. Example:

    1. She walked happily to the moon
    2. She traipsed to the moon

    Also, as a dialogue tag, they tend to fail.

    1. "I want a cookie!" he said, bossily.
    2. "I want a cookie," he demanded.

    Has to do with readability and flow of prose in commercial fiction. The simple path is often the correct one, etc.