Good writing skills are the foundations on which we aspiring authors and writers and bloggers stand. Writing, with all its literary rules and grammar rules and plotting rules, is no fleeting fancy for the faint of heart. It’s a grueling undertaking to master the craft of writing and avoid all the pitfalls along the way. So what are some good rules to follow when writing? Let’s take a look at these six writing tips to help you flesh out your own skill set.

1. Guidelines for Punctuation

Emphasis is on guidelines because really that’s the truth of the matter, punctuation is simply a set of guidelines set forth to provide some seemliness, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be altered to provide some artful taste to your writing…There have always been rules about writing [that doesn’t mean you have to follow them stringently.] Punctuation in fact has been around since 200 b c. Invented by Aristophanes (of Byzantium) a librarian—of course!—in the Library of Alexander he invented punctuation for the Greek alphabet; thereby plaguing writers ever since. Sure: punctuation is there to indicate a distinction between a pause, and full stop, an aside and other. Such. Cues. But writing is also art and punctuation merely the nails in the vessel it doesn’t hurt to loosen a few here or there? The ship will still hold together—

Many famous authors have rather forceful opinions (on their punctuating) weapons of choice; and some some vicious tirades against certain poor misunderstood pieces of…punctuation. Find it here in this link which I -warn- contains some colorful language, venom and wit

“Punctuation marks are like road signs; without them we just may get a ticket…”

Lavern. E. Atteny

2. Narrating the Narrative

The point of literature is to tell audiences a story, right? I feel like the “telling” part really gets dragged by critics. Literature, after all, started out as folktales passed around verbally, so why should we break the long-held tradition of telling stories by throwing in what I feel like is needless action scenes or dialogue? Who cares if Bethany’s cheeks flush or her eyelashes flutter when she sees her crush from across the school hallway? That’s not the important part. The important part are the cold, hard facts of the plot: Bethany has a crush. Simple as that. The whole point of a narrative is to literally narrate. For example, you don’t need to know that I’m dabbing the sweat from my furrowed brow as I pound out the keys for this blog post. Just know that I am feeling very serious about this. See? Short, concise telling of the information. Leave all that “showing” business for the filmmakers. That’s their job. But as the fact-loving readers that you are, I’m sure you’d like me to dispense with all the extraneous stuff and just tell you what the benefits of “telling” are over “showing”. So here it is:

  • Provides direct, concise information
  • Doesn’t rely on the readers interpretation (or misinterpretation, am I right?) of scenes
  • Zones in on the feels
  • Gives the static verbs some respect
  • Allows creative use of adverbs
  • Minimizes boring dialogue

“Show the readers nothing, tell them everything.”

Herman Yewingest

3. The Marvelous Mary Sue

I ask you, who doesn’t want to glide effortlessly through life knowing all the right answers and garnering all the praise and support from everyone around you? Luckily for us, there’s the Mary Sue, that protagonist of protagonists. She has it all—beauty, virtue, intelligence, wit, courage, talent—and without all those annoying flaws or weaknesses to hold her back. With the extraordinary Mary Sue, your readers will have the luxury of watching all complicated scenarios, ranging from intense political negotiations to terrifying battles to complex medical crises to maybe even a dance duel, be solved with the utmost ease. They can rest easy knowing their heroine (or hero, aka Marty Stu) is carefully fitted with the thickest of plot armor to protect them as they seamlessly glide from problem to problem with the grace and relatability of the most dazzling of unicorns.

Oh, wait this isn’t a single-character story? No worries. All the other characters must meet only one criteria: to swoon over your Mary Sue. And why wouldn’t they honestly? She single-handedly solves all their problems without breaking a sweat or getting her hands mildly dirty. Dystopian society? Not with Mary Sue around! She’ll turn that frown upside down and make your dystopia into a utopia in no time at all! Readers will love it. It’s like if someone took deus ex machina and made that plot device into a whole character! And if it’s good enough for the Ancient Greeks, Mary Sue is certainly good enough to be the center of your book.

And if by some unlucky happenstance, this rare and flawless creature you’ve created is just too good for the world she was given and you can see no other place for her than the beauty of death, it’s okay. Her fabulous tale may end, but Mary Sue will live on in the hearts of your adoring readers, inspiring in them that same wish fulfillment that will propagate Mary Sues for many lifetimes yet to come.

4. Adjectives, Adverbs, and More

Why say in 10 words what can easily be expounded to 100 words!? Words are wonderful, so naturally having more of them is extraordinarily wonderful. Writing is an art after all, and words are the paint we use, so more descriptive words should only add to the colorful vibrancy of what we are communicating. Grandiloquence is a gift deserved to be shared with under-stimulated readers who itch for edification that only verbosity can provide.

Don’t entertain the defeatist attitude of those adjective and adverb hatemongers. Adjectives and adverbs are the sumptuous flavoring within your masterpiece. It is the lack of flavor that is the true atrocity! So go ahead and give in to your meritorious inclination to write that circumlocutory monologue! Give in to that innocent infatuation with fustian palaver! Your readers will surely and eagerly gobble up every well-researched vocable as if it be some scrumptious delicacy they have henceforth been divest of. After all, you can only prove the merit of your authorial ambitions by displaying the prodigious nature of your wit through an extensive and ostentatious verbiage.

“As to the adjective, when in doubt, keep it about.”

Tink Waram

5. The Informative Dialogue Tag

“What’s a dialogue tag?” you ask.

“Well,” I say, “it’s a small phrase that comes before, after, or in the middle of actual dialogue to indicate who’s speaking. For example,” I add, “you can tell clearly that I’m currently speaking.”

“Oh, like this?” you ask, pointing to the dialogue tag at the end of the sentence.

“Quite so!” I exclaim. “Dialogue tags are very useful, aren’t they?”

“But I thought dialogue tags were frowned upon,” you protest, knitting your brow in confusion. “Isn’t this a little much?”

“Preposterous!” I bellow and slam my fist down against the table top. “Dialogue tags are necessary! You don’t want your readers getting confused about who’s speaking, do you? What if they get lost mid conversation?”

You raise your finger with a thought. “We could always indicate a speaker without a dialogue tag.”

“Wrong,” I state, shaking my head with disappointment. “You must label your dialogue like you would label your plastic food containers. How would you feel if you pulled out a container without a label? Is it chicken? Is it pork? WHO KNOWS! It’s pure chaos. Do you want to leave your readers in CHAOS?”

“Well, no,” you admit, retreating a little. “But…”

“No, buts. Dialogue tags are important, and you should use them at every opportunity for clarity’s sake,” I conclude with the heavy sigh of someone bogged down by criticism at every corner. “Without them, how is anyone to know if your character is crying out or whimpering or stuttering or speaking breathily?” I implore as you retreat farther away.

“I mean, without a dialogue tag, the reader could easily think, based on the structure of our exchange, that you are the one talking here instead of me,” I point out in exasperation.

“Hello?” I call.

Silence.

“Well,” I huff with a heavy smack of the lips.

6. The Ever-Popular Cliché

I may be opening a can of worms here, but clichés are cliché for a reason—because they are sharp as a tack and solid as a rock. Some people may just judge your book by its clichés, but don’t let it get you down. Live and let live, to each his own, and carpe diem, I say. You may win some and lose some, but at the end of the day, you can’t let naysayers convince you that clichés are as dumb as a doorknob. In my humble opinion, they are the best thing since sliced bread. Everyone’s still a critic? Well, there are plenty of fish in the sea, so just tell them to kick rocks and it is what it is. They can take it or leave it. Maybe they should read between the lines some more.

So don’t ask to cliché or not to cliché? Cliché like a broken record. Beat that dead horse. Take the tiger by the tail and cliché like a kid in a candy store without a care in the world.

And remember: tomorrow is always another day for another cliché.

“The first man who compared a woman to a rose was a poet; the second is the father of the cliché.”

Verné le Dragard

HAPPY APRIL FOOLS’ DAY!

I hope you appreciate the literary hell I put myself through to write this April Fools’ blog post. My teeth were firmly gritted and fists clenched as I mucked out that disastrous punctuation section, and I can’t even begin to guess how many times I opened my thesaurus for some over-the-top word. I hope, amid the silliness, you’ve also gained some appreciation both for the literary rules themselves as well as the breaking of those rules. As budding writers, having a firm grasp of writing techniques and literary rules is essential to create the clearest, most meaningful, most entertaining picture for our readers. Every rule was written for a reason, and that’s to prevent us from making novice mistakes that distract from or diminish the story we’re trying to tell. That being said, often times as we grow as an artist (for writing is indeed an art), sometimes we grow past the strict boundaries laid out by these rules. Many famous authors, such as William Faulkner for one, became famous for breaking the rules and introducing something nonstandard or even radical to literature. Literature is always changing; preferences are always changing; and what may be standard and acceptable now will likely one day be outdated and overdone. Sometimes certain styles of writing become inane because everyone writes according to the rules, and it’s breaking the rules that becomes refreshing and revolutionary.

As much as I appreciate and often abide by the rules, I encourage you, when you’re comfortable, to also look beyond them. To think outside the box, so to speak. (For I’ll admit, it was a little bit fun to break the rules.) With that, I leave you with one final quote, a real one this time, as well the actual authors and quotes my silly ones were created from. Happy April Fools’ Day!

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Pablo Picasso
“Punctuation marks are like road signs; without them we just may get lost…” - Nanette L. Avery

"Show the readers everything, tell them nothing." - Ernest Hemingway

"As to the adjective, when in doubt, keep it out." - Mark Twain

"The first man who compared a woman to a rose was a poet; the second, an imbecile." - Gérard de Nerval

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