Rules of Fiction Writing

A friend’s daughter recently asked for help on a report for school. She needed to asked a writer about their profession. It brought to mind some of the various ‘rules’ I learned over the last several years of being a fiction writer.

Oh wait, this is an entirely different lesson 😛

I know there are dozens of subjective ‘rules’ out there, including every genre maintaining their own unique set of laws, but here’s what I’ve found to be universal. These are rules I’ve learned either the hard way or being in the right place with the right people.

* Say as much as you can in as few words as possible. Then cut the word count by half.

* Adverbs are spawns of Satan. Don’t use them. Find the right verb.

* Adjectives aren’t evil, but they are sinful. Use sparingly. (Damn, I used an adverb!)

* Head-hopping is just as confusing as it sounds. Keep to one point of view at a time. If you have to change heads, best option is to only do it by chapter.

* Likewise, stay in one tense: past or present. Otherwise, it becomes too ‘Back to the Future‘ for people.

* Clichés are such a cliché. Originality is the only way. Ya feel me?

* Showing is better than telling. Showing makes things more active, better paced, and easier to read. Telling has its uses at times, but again, only sparingly.

* Info dumps (also called backstory dumps) belong in the dump themselves. Filter in the backstory in small bits throughout many chapters.

* Most importantly, forget everything I just wrote and do what works for you and your voice. Fiction is subjective.

Can you think of any other rules I’ve missed? That we can throw out together?

I’ve Become A Writer… Smile

My husband can definitely tell I’ve become a writer.  It’s bugging the hell out of him. A little.

As a writer, we’re taught several ‘rules’ that we can’t break if we want to be successful. First, avoid adverbs.  If you’ve used an adverb, that means you didn’t find the right verb. Go back and do it again.

Secondly – and this is what my husband has been suffering from – repetitive phrases are a no-no.

My hubby works from home a few days a week and spends the majority of his day on conference calls. (Exciting, I know, but he loves his work and I’m grateful.) So I overhear some of his calls, and more specifically his responses. And the more I learn as a writer, the more I pick up on the ‘rule breaking’ in my husband’s conversations.

Granted, my husband isn’t a writer, and probably none of his coworkers are either. So maybe they don’t notice it as much as it bugs me.

My husband has 3 phrases that he uses constantly. Not just two or three times a day, but more like 2 or 3 times per conversation.

~Long story short…

~At the end of the day…

And the most overly used phrase:

~In my perspective… (or From my perspective…)

Each of those phrases by themselves aren’t a problem. But the fact that I hear him use them so often every day, it’s become a tick under my skin. So I pointed it out to him a few weeks ago.

Clearly, it doesn’t bother him. He thinks I’m nuts.

And habits are hard to break. Since I pointed it out to him, I swear he’s been using them even more often. My parents heard us ‘arguing’ about this the other day, and now it’s become a family ‘joke.’ (B and I hardly argue, but we can have spirited, fun discussions. And by ‘joke,’ more like it’s something everyone in my family is waiting to see me smirk when he uses them.)

I wonder what ticks my husband, and family, see in me, now that I’ve become a writer. What new behaviors or phrases do they see me using that irritates them? Critiquing their emails? Being too picky when proof reading my husband’s homework? Throwing a book across the room when I think the editing is horrible? I’m sure I have several.

But at the end of the day (smirk), I’m glad they could put up with me before, and continue to put up with me today.

Long story short (smirk), it’s official. I’m a writer because I’m bugging my family. Just makes me smile!

12 Steps for Writers Anonymous

Hi, my name is Susie, and I’m a writer.

It’s been 3 hours since I’ve written anything. And a good 3 weeks since I’ve written fiction. I know I’m breaking the rules by writing this very post.

I admit I will always be addicted to writing and feel a pull inside my soul to put a pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. But I need to be constructive, productive, relative, and any other ‘–ive’ that’s necessary to make my life- and writing- manageable.

I trust in a higher power, greater than myself, to restore my sanity after moments of writing and the lunacy that it sometimes ensues. I willingly turn my will, life, and pen over to the care of that higher power. The all-knowing muse that has my fingers continue to race over the keyboard.

I need to bring closure to my writing life by apologizing to any critiquers, editors, and agents, whom I may have snapped at for rejections or poor reviews. It came from an ignorant and bad place inside me, that I’m constantly striving to improve. And I’m sorry they were the targets of my negative energies.

I need to thank those who’ve supported me and believed I could be better, improve, and build upon my skills with a positive focus. Encouragement is essential, and I’m grateful for them.

I’m grateful for the sun, the moon, the air, light, food, chocolate, and a working charge in my laptop. But more importantly I’m grateful for my husband, my son, my parents, my brothers, my friends, my peers, my neighbors, and anyone else that has put up with my crazy antics and habits as a writer. Including writing snaps at midnight and the light that keeps others up, putting lunch or dinner on the table an hour late, or emotional breakdowns when scenes aren’t going right and I have to backtrack. I know I look like a toddler throwing a tantrum during those times, and I’m grateful they haven’t shoved me in a corner for a time-out. I’m grateful my time-outs involve a Diet Coke and a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup.

Sorry, Caden.

I apologize for the days I haven’t bothered to change out of my PJ’s and forget I’m not wearing a bra under my t-shirt and haven’t bothered to comb my hair for my trek to the mailbox, and thereby scare the neighborhood children playing in the street.

I’ve always been ready for the higher power to remove the bad habits I employ as a writer. I’m ready for Him to remove all adverbs from my vocabulary, instill an enduring sense of ‘show, don’t tell’ in my imagination, and remove a constant need for coffee in my nervous system. I ask the higher power to remove these short comings, and just allow my first sale to happen with the next ring of my iPhone. And let that sale be a six-digit paycheck, so I no longer have to suffer through the pains of my shortcomings.

I will continue to identify when I’m wrong, when my writing isn’t sufficient or entertaining enough, and believe that those I’ve hurt will carry on believing in me, and read my work. More importantly, I will continue to acknowledge when an editor or agent just doesn’t get my work, and the loss of a sale is on their shoulders, not mine. I will continue to try and reach the same level as James Patterson, Stephanie Meyer, and even JK Rowling, even though I know my writing has the potential to be better. And I’ll continue to pray for the higher power’s will and knowledge to teleport into my fingers and write the international bestseller that will put my addiction in a place where it is no longer insanity, but ingenious.

For the world will be a better place when I acknowledge my weakness, and force others to read it.