Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stupid Writing Rules: Finale

Thanks for following the series. It’s been quite therapeutic for me to get all those objections off my chest and I hope you gained a broader understanding of this crazy writing business.

To end the series, I thought I’d bust one more rule that didn’t seem like it needed an entire blog posting and offer a secret that will forever protect you from stupid writing rules that breed out of thin air.

Often times, a writer will hear that they need to watch using clichés. Whereas you don’t want to lean on them in your manuscript, because you want your own voice to shine, clichés do indeed have their place. After all, they were hip enough to earn a VIP spot in our everyday language. Sometimes they can be so much better than first impulse word selections. For example, instead of writing: he looked at the new car (look is tired, overused and should be reserved for precise usage) I wrote: He feasted his eyes on the new car. Cliché? Yes. Bad? Not really. The alternatives for it off the top of a writer’s head are synonyms for look…observe, checked out, regarded, and so forth. Think about it. I’ve snuck plenty of cliché’s by my editor because they freshened up a paragraph.

The first ultimate weapon to ensure you’re not being duped by stupid writing rules is just plain old reading. If you see a usage occur often in books from reputable publishers, especially penned by new authors, then you’re good to use it too. With my Crap Meter hook, I’ve mentioned checking bestsellers before, but what I didn’t clarify was that a student writer should analyze each word. Don’t read it for entertainment. Read it to learn.

The Death Star that will crush any stupid writing rule is….are you ready....a grammar book. Don’t listen to some hack who obviously couldn’t explain to you what an appositive or a predicate nominative is tell you not to do something when the manual for our language empowers you to do otherwise. That’s like a crackhead telling you to ignore math because you won’t need it to be an engineer. Yes, you’re going to break some grammar rules. Yes, it might take some time before you achieve the finesse of a selling writer. But you should never limit yourself.

By the ever opinionated E. C. Stacy


Dean K Miller said...

I'm not sure if being less stupid makes me smarter, but thanks for this fun series of posts. It's refreshing to see someone take on the white elephant in the room, if only to feed it peanuts.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Yeah, what Dean said.

Also, cliches are perfect for dialogue. They tell a lot about your character.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this series. It has really helped me during those times when, after careful consideration, I've decided to break a rule only to have other writers jump on it without any regard for the overall story.

Dee Brown

Karen Duvall said...

Rules were made to be broken. OMG! Did i just type a cliché? Hahaha. :) I absolutely agree about some of the archaic writing rules that stifle great writing and limit creativity. Like Pat said, clichés work remarkably well in dialogue to help illuminate a character's personality. As much as i try to avoid them like the plague, i admit to letting a few slip in. And if i use clichés in the narrative, i try to put a twist on them to freshen them up. Great post!