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message 1: by Bisky (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
There are lots of writing rule books out there, lots of tips on blogs...

But I wonder, have you ever come across a rule that has infuriated you or made you laugh?

message 2: by Mark (new)

Mark Bordner Rule #1--- learn to read and write

Courtesy of Mark Bordner's inane humor, volume 1

message 3: by Claire (new)

Claire (cycraw) | 278 comments As rules go, that one's pretty solid. LOL!

message 4: by David (new)

David Thirteen (davidjthirteen) I think a lot of them infuriate me. Not so much because of there validity but the totalitarian way they are usually decreed, and the horrible way they're usually explained.

I think "show don't tell" has to be the worst offender. It's a very useful tip for writing, but I can't even count how many times I've heard it thrown out by people who didn't seem to understand what it meant.

I remember reading this one blog post where the person gave an example of "telling" as something like: "John walked down the street." Which is a correct example. But then when they gave an example of "showing" it was this incomprehensible, adjective heavy, paragraph that if you read it twice you might be able to figure out that some character was walking somewhere. Apparently for that blogger the point of the rule was to obfuscate all meaning with flowery prose.

That is my rant for the day - thank you very much *walks off stage*

message 5: by Claire (new)

Claire (cycraw) | 278 comments LOL David, I know what you mean. And sometimes you really just should say, "John walked down the street."
I follow a blog by Mary Kole. She was once an agent, now she is an editor. She brought J.K. Rowling as an example of how sometimes telling can be good. If anyone is so inclined, you can find the post on

message 6: by David (new)

David Thirteen (davidjthirteen) Claire, I completely agree. Telling has its time and place. I have my own reasons for thinking so, but I'm going to check out that article - thanks for the heads up.

message 7: by Brian (new)

Brian Basham (brianbasham) | 390 comments @David I love the "show don't tell" rule! You're right that too many people don't understand it. I wrote a blog post recently about it. The example I used had to do with the work I am editing right now. I had put "Character1 and Character2 spoke about blah blah." Then proceeded to explain the main points of the conversation in the paragraph. In the rewrite I typed out the conversation.

message 8: by David (new)

David Thirteen (davidjthirteen) Claire, I read the article. Very glad I did. It was an aspect I had never considered before. Although, I saw the uses of telling, I didn't realize how complimentary it could be to showing.

Brian, it really hits home how important it is to strong writing when you read something that is relying heavily on telling, especially when it comes to entire scenes. I find myself thinking, this could be very interesting, why did the writer skip over this in just a couple of sentences.

message 9: by Brian (new)

Brian Basham (brianbasham) | 390 comments @David That's exactly what I was thinking when I went back over it. "Why did I leave this out? This is a whole new chapter that needs to be in there."

message 10: by Claire (last edited Feb 06, 2014 10:06AM) (new)

Claire (cycraw) | 278 comments
Article on when to tell instead of showing.

message 11: by J. David (new)

J. David Clarke (clarketacular) | 418 comments David wrote: "I think a lot of them infuriate me. Not so much because of there validity but the totalitarian way they are usually decreed, and the horrible way they're usually explained.

I think "show don't te..."

I totally agree, David. It's not necessarily the "rules" that are bad, some of them are very helpful for novice writers, it's the way some people recite them when it's obvious they have no clue what they really mean.

As for me, I think understanding rules is the first step to knowing how and when to break them.

message 12: by E.S. (new)

E.S. Wesley (eswesley) | 22 comments Totally agree about "show don't tell."

One that bugs me is "NEVER use adverbs." Adverbs exist, and they should be used at the appropriate time. Don't use them all the time, not even every page, but treating then like the plague is to do a disservice to something that is part of our language.

The same could be said of any rule that starts with "never."

message 13: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 1053 comments Mod
I believe weak adverbs such as really, very etc. are giving adverbs in general a bad name. Also, I agree, when used sporadically, they have their place, the good ones that is, although the really, very and the likes can still be used in dialogues since most people use them left and right when speaking. At least, that's my humble opinion.

message 14: by E.S. (new)

E.S. Wesley (eswesley) | 22 comments I agree, GG. As long as people use them with respect to the reader and the piece, and use the right ones at the right times, then there's no problem.

message 15: by David (new)

David Thirteen (davidjthirteen) G.G., Ha! The "never use adverbs" one is also a pet peeve of mine. the way people get rabid over that one, you would think that adverbs were some sort of Satanic symbol. Why would you want to restrict yourself from using a whole part of the English language.

But G.G., you are right there is some truth in it because they can be filler and over used. People should probably say watch you adverb use.

message 16: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Strong (samanthalstrong) | 206 comments OK, I have a rule that I read that made me so mad that I skipped reading everyone else's to post here.

I love Stephen King's On Writing but he put a rule in there that you have to set aside four hours a day. Also, you can't write at a bus stop or while waiting in line. It has to be locked in a room with no interruptions.

Dear Mr. King: No. Some of us don't have assistants to polish our keyboards for us and four hours of uninterrupted time a day sitting around. Some of us write on the train and at lunch and furtively in notebooks in the middle of meetings. And that doesn't make us less of a writer.

OK, I'm done ranting. :)

message 17: by Agustin (new)

Agustin Guerrero (agustinguerrero) | 37 comments S - I agree with you that Stephen King's rule definitely isn't for everyone. I'm not sure if you've read this piece, but it goes hand in hand with what you're saying.

message 18: by Neil (new)

Neil Bursnoll | 109 comments Everyone writes differently, and in different circumstances. I can write listening to music. I can do it in silence. I can even do it in a busy office environment.

If you're in the zone, you can do it. Well, I can that is! Not everyone is the same.

message 19: by Brian (new)

Brian Basham (brianbasham) | 390 comments There is almost always a verb that can be used in place of an adverb verb combo. A lot of editors and writers consider it to be lazy writing when you use an adverb when a thesaurus would serve you better. I'm not adverse to adverbs, but I can see why some people are. I try not to use them when I can avoid it. Dialogue is another monster. You have to use them in dialogue.

message 20: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Strong (samanthalstrong) | 206 comments @Agustin - Yes, that article captures very well how I feel about his advice.

The thing is, for years, I thought of myself as "a writer," when the last time I'd penned words was half a decade ago in a private journal, and the last time I'd written an actual story that someone else read was over a decade. So I appreciate that some people (myself included) needed to read the book and realize, "Hey, if I'm not writing, I'm not a writer. DUH!"

But I've also struggled with taking breaks simply because I've "slacked off for too many years." My self talk goes like this: "A day off on the weekend?? Are you kidding me here?? GET YOUR BUTT IN THE CHAIR." And then I get super demotivated. That doesn't help me. So now I've learned to cut myself some slack.

That's some good writing advice right there. Cut yourself some slack. If your "break" turns into three years, maybe you should rethink things. If it's a weekend or even a month (cause you have pneumonia or your mom just died or you just feel burnt out), it's not the end of the world.

message 21: by E.S. (new)

E.S. Wesley (eswesley) | 22 comments @Brian
There is appropriate (read: non-lazy) use of adverbs that fits voice and tone. Sentence wrangling to fit in other parts of speech when the adverb is more effective, more evocative, and more economical is not an ascendant form of writing.

I still agree that a lot of people use adverbs as a crutch, and I do avoid them, but this "never" business has to stop. :)

message 22: by Ken (new)

Ken Hughes (kenhughes) | 12 comments Anyone who makes sweeping statements is a blithering idiot.

--Wait a minute, can I rephrase that? :)

message 23: by Ken (new)

Ken Hughes (kenhughes) | 12 comments My usual line about writing rules is "You can break them, but only when you know where they are, or you'll just trip over them."

My real thought is that they aren't "rules" like ordinary advice, or the "speeding" kind of laws that you break when you think the penalty's unlikely. Each is more like a law of physics, it always applies... in that it's one of the hundreds of other laws that apply too.

So writing is balancing between them. Each thing tips you one way or another, and you find other ways to straighten it up or decide the tipping isn't important this time, or that it's what you're looking for in the first place.

message 24: by Bisky (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
I think everyone has personal rules though :3 i can't edit as I write. Kills my mojo if I try so I force myself not to :]

message 25: by E.S. (new)

E.S. Wesley (eswesley) | 22 comments @Ken- ha, I think we're all blithering idiots.

message 26: by J. David (new)

J. David Clarke (clarketacular) | 418 comments E.S. wrote: "@Ken- ha, I think we're all blithering idiots."

I'm a blithering genius, thank you. I've mastered the blither.

message 27: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Thorogood (tonythorogood) I think the main rule for a writer to follow is simply to write, nothing else really matters.

message 28: by Bisky (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
I charmed my blither, married him and took the kids in the divorce.

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

A lot of people often say that you're not a writer if you don't write every day. Apparently, it's THE thing that will make you a good writer.

Then I must be a terrible writer...

I study literature; it takes time. Writing takes time. And I do like sleeping at night. Thus, I don't write every day because a day only lasts 24 hours.

Besides, it's also a matter of inspiration. Some days I'm just not at the top of my form, and although I try, I can't write anything.

I have great respect and admiration for those who are actually able to write all the time.

message 30: by J. David (new)

J. David Clarke (clarketacular) | 418 comments @Sandrine I don't take that sort of thing too seriously. I try to write 5 days a week and whatever comes out comes out, or doesn't.

message 31: by Carl (new)

Carl I haven't written much yet this year. But I will.

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