Monday, March 1, 2010

Writing Rules

A friend recently posted a list of various authors' rules for writing.

I, being the geek I am, love reading them. Some, like Margaret Atwood's #3: 'Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch pieces of wood or your arm will do', make me laugh. Others, like Helen Dunmore's #4: 'Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn't work throw it away', are painfully hard to acknowledge. (Throw it away? What do you mean throw it away?)

There are more that are contradictory, depending on who you decide to listen to and more yet that I'm pretty sure don't make sense at all.

And then there are ones like Elmore Leonard's #3:

'Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in'.

This one has become the bane of my existence.

I like my dialogue tags. And I get bored of 'said'. But he has a point. The readers I've spoken with say they do tend to skip over 'said' so that it barely even registers.

As best as I can tell, verbs like 'gasped' and 'lied' have their place carrying dialogue just as 'said does. And from now on I will certainly be watching my dialogue more closely.

*All quotes taken from 'Ten Rules for Writing Fiction' published by


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