Do All The Don'ts
I get it. The advice exists to help writers. But it can get them stuck in legalistic thinking that can stifle creativity. If you realize that it’s about balancing the elements that lend themselves to your work…you’ll actually just have another thing that’ll drive you insane.
But you’re a writer after all…so have fun with that.
Say yes to adverbs. Never use adverbs they say. Adverbs are lazy they say. Use something more specific they say. Like…why? He ran quickly across the street.
Omgod, I totally can’t imagine how he’s running across the street because **dramatic pause** an adverb was used.
Instead say, He jaunted across the street. He dove across the street. He shuffled across the street. He donkey-konged across the street.
No. Fuck you. I want to use quickly. Quickly is exactly the image I want. It’s not lazy.
No run-on sentences. Screw that noise. Run on sentences can be used to control the pace. They give a specific vibe, as too much information is provided in one breath and Jacob sneezed so he could finish this sentence.
Well. Fair enough. That was nonsense. But my point stands. The occasional run-on sentence is part of the spice of pacing.
“Said is dead” my ass. Don’t be afraid of ‘said’ tags. You do not need to get creative here. This is one place I encourage people not to get creative. The writing around the dialogue reveals the tone. Don’t wild out. You’ll look silly.
“I want pickles,” Ida said.
Nice and normal.
“I want pickles.” Ida guffawed.
Please. Say that with a guffaw.
Stop what you’re doing and guffaw, “I want pickles.”
Report to me the results.
I’m not saying never use something else or don’t be more specific. Just don’t make it weird, you know?
“I hope I can.” He pole vaulted.
“Maybe Darla knows.” She snorted while twisting her head to the side and quirking her eyebrow.
“Can’t. Have class tomorrow.” They mimed as they squirtled.
Split the god damn infinitive. This is some made-up BS some dude put in a book 350 thousand years ago and every self-stylized grammar snob-slash-old lady has been beating over our heads ever since. The origin is something like, you can’t split infinitives in Latin, so the dude was like, well we totally shouldn’t do that thing in English either. But the thing is, English is a very flexible language. English has been doing Pilates for thousands of years. It can handle a split infinitive.
Go ahead and tell. I’m going to stab myself in the eyeball with a shrimp fork if I see ‘Show Don’t Tell’ splayed out as the ultimate writing advice. You know what? Fuck you. Because you can’t show everything. You just can’t. Somethings are important to a story but showing it would be a novel in itself— here is where you tell.
The nitty-gritty of it is — practice writing. Read everything. Learn different ways to tell stories. Edit what you write. Figure out your voice. Your genre. Never stop experimenting. There is no right way. You won’t be for everybody but that doesn’t mean you’re bad.
The more you write, the more you read, you’ll get a feel for what’s right.
And for god’s sake, if you’re going to self-publish, hire a professional editor.