Never end a sentence with a preposition.
Never write a book based on current trends.
Never continue to work on a story that isn’t working.
Never ignore the fundamental basics of good story writing: grammar, spelling, punctuation, character and plot development, compelling content, good flow, realistic dialogue, etc.
Never try to emulate someone else’s style.
Never use clichés.
Never start a story with dialogue, weather, excessive narrative or description, a dream, a ringing alarm or cell phone, a prologue, backstory, an information dump, lots of telling and no showing, and the prohibitions go on and on.
Yikes! I’ve already opted to mop the kitchen floor on my hands and knees instead of write—and I
Back to books. Starting a sentence with a coordinating conjunction isn’t a great idea, but it’s effective in an intense scene where power sentences must be short. Beginning the next sentence with “and” or “but” gives you a connection and a punch that could be lost by making the previous one longer.
Never ending a sentence with a preposition is an old rule that long ago fell into disfavor. Breaking this one will not likely violate any agent’s taboos.
Never continue a story that isn’t coming together—good rule. If a story isn’t working, shelve it. Maybe you can breathe new life into it later, but move on now.
Grammar and punctuation rules have one objective: clarity. That should be sufficient incentive to obey them unless you have a valid reason for not doing so and know when and how to break them—then don’t make it a habit. Correct spelling? That’s a given. Character and plot development are the foundations of story; don’t shortchange yourself or your book here. Stories need good flow in addition to compelling content to keep the reader turning pages. A reader who has to go back to figure out what's happening is a reader who probably won’t buy your next book; in fact, he/she may not finish this one. Writing great dialogue is an art. Study it. Learn it. An otherwise fantastic story can fall flat if conversation (with others or internal) isn’t “real.” People often don’t talk in complete sentences, speak grammatically, avoid slang, etc. Keep this in mind as you write.
Your own style and voice will set you apart from the myriad writers vying for readers. Develop those qualities. Hone them. Create your “signature.” Make your book your calling card, uniquely and magnificently your own.
Clichés—overused and abused sayings that most editors insist on deleting—can sometimes have a place in stories. A great-aunt, grandfather, or distant cousin from the backwoods may naturally include them as part of his/her speech pattern. A cliché tweaked to fit a character or scene can work well when it’s personalized to fit the story, and it infuses new life into a tired, old saying. Again, avoid excessive use.
Start your story in a compelling way; that is, compel your reader to keep reading. Dialogue? Weather? Description? Dream? Ringing whatever? Prologue? If these are done right, are short and to the point, are relevant to the story, and grip the reader, use them freely but wisely. Backstory? Working it seamlessly into your developing tale as needed is far more effective than overwhelming the reader with it in the first chapter. Information dump? Almost always a “never.” Telling rather than showing? Some telling is inevitable, but keep it in check. Remember that you need to hook your
reader on the first page, ideally in the first paragraph, and cultivate that interest all the way to the end. This is the rule that counts. Most of the others can be broken—occasionally and correctly, that is.
How do you feel about the “never” rules? Which ones are better broken? What unmentioned rules have challenged you when beginning a new story? Why do you believe rules should or should not govern our writing?
|Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at www.denvereditor.com.|