Dusty Old Writing Rules

When I wrote my first Nano story, one of the girls harped on me because she had this huge pet peeve against people who started sentences with conjunctions. But (har har) it wasn’t conjunctions, namely it was starting a sentence with the words “And” or “But” — which she said was the mark of a bad writer. Why? Because it’s bad grammar. If you look around, many best selling authors are selling books that make use of conjunctions at the beginning of a sentence. Personally, I think it packs more of a punch sometimes.

Now, I can see why one might not want to use “And” or “But” at the beginning of a sentence in an official document. I do believe it’s actually accepted to use conjunctions on non-formal writing. I also believe novels, short stories, and roleplay posts would count as non formal. Especially the latter. I mean, come on. It’s a roleplay post. What are you going to do, grade me on it?

It’s all about personal preference. Some writers genuinely don’t like it. I have my own personal preferences. While reading, if there is too much telling, it reads like a book aimed at the very young. I don’t like my writing to be overly simplistic. At the same time, I despise purple prose and I think if you’re abusing a thesaurus just to sound smart, all you really end up doing is looking pretentious. It comes across as if you want everybody to think “Wow, what an extensive vocabulary!” There’s a time and a place for those five dollar words and I can tell you that it’s not in every single sentence you write.

I don’t believe in a lot of dusty old writing rules. Adverbs are brilliant when used correctly and one of my favorite authors in the world, Diana Wynne Jones, uses them. A sentence in one of her novels that had me rolling happened to make good use of an adverb. To be quite honest, I don’t even think that sentence would have read as humorously if it hadn’t used an adverb. I’ll agree that too many of them tend to make a story or passage look lazy; there are times where you can get the same feeling across without using an adverb. But not to use them at all? Pfft.

Some of my favorite authors (Stephen King, for one) have even cited these rules as rubbish in their non fiction books on writing. Should I take the advice of these best-selling authors, or some no-name girl at a Nano event? Hm… <–That right there is another thing. Ellipses. My English teacher in college berated me mercilessly for its usage. I’ll tell you right now; I love ellipses. Love ’em, love ’em, love ’em — and I’ll continue to use them.

I think when you’re writing, you need to write organically. Write using your character’s voice. Don’t be afraid to think outside those old rules.

If you don’t believe me, then check these links out for more information!

Grammar Rules to Break


Coordinating Conjunctions

Getting The Mojo To Write

Sometimes, I think the most difficult part of being a writer is getting the mojo–the get up and go, the inspiration–to actually sit down and write. I don’t know how many times I’ve poured myself a soda, positioned myself nice and comfy, turned on the “mood” music for the next chapter or post, and then found myself simply staring at the screen. Don’t we all have that problem? The worst part is, you then forget what it was that you were doing! You see all the pretty bookmarks you’ve managed to collect over the years and think “Ooh, maybe I’ll just check on so-and-so place, my facebook, my email, this forum…” and before you know it, a couple of hours have passed and you still haven’t written a damn thing.

I still haven’t found that magic bullet to cure writer’s block. Many writers say you need to power through it, write through the block. While that does work, what makes you write the first word on the page? And the second? The third? Admittedly, once I begin, it doesn’t seem so daunting a task. I’ve surprised myself by what I can accomplish within a scant hour or two of writing. That doesn’t stop the blocks from coming.

So, other than powering through, what else do you do? I find taking a step back also helps. (I know, conflicting advice FTW, right? Power through, take a step back.) It helps to move away from the computer and go watch a movie that inspires, listen to music that tells a story, or just plain take a long car drive. I don’t know how many brilliant ideas have popped into my head while driving out to Bakersfield. The drive combined with music is the best inspiration for me. Gives me time to actually listen to the music, rather than use it as mere background filler while I’m writing.

I also find that it helps to keep a notebook near the bed. My ideas love to strike when I’m drifting into sleep–or sometimes my dreams give me ideas that get my mojo running again!

There’s no getting around the fact that there are just days when nothing wants to be written, but don’t waste the time you’re not using to write. Observe what happens around you, ask questions while watching movies or television like “What would have happened if she wasn’t saved at the last second?” Ask yourself what the story might have been like told from a different perspective. Alter the ending of the movie!

So power through, take a step back, get inspired. There are so many stories waiting to be told; you have only to look for them. Decide how you want to tell the story, choose your protagonist carefully. Nobody said a story written in the perspective of the murderer’s cat would be boring.