寫作的"規則"


206

在創意寫作課程,寫作書籍以及互聯網方面,有很多關於axioms的話題。通常,這些小寶石被解釋給新作家,就好像它們是事實一樣,這是理所當然的。

有經驗的作家經常會說"寫作時沒有硬性規定"或"規則被打破"。

所以,這個問題的目的是提供一個地方,我們可以列出這些公理或寫作的"規則",並權衡它們是真正的不言而喻的事實還是說完全是垃圾的(或者甚至是某些東西)。-之間)。

請將每個答案限制為一個"規則",並在答案本身或評論中表達您對此的想法。

到目前為止的列表(按字母順序):

172

Show, Don't Tell

This may very well be the most popular "rule" of writing. It refers to the idea that it's better to "show" an event as a scene, rather than simply "telling" the reader what happened.

In my opinion, this is mostly sound advice:

  • Don't tell us the 5000-year history of your fantasy setting in the prologue. Show it to us throughout the story.
  • Don't tell us the protagonist's girlfriend is beautiful. Show us her flowing black hair, her lips perpetually on the verge of smiling, her brown eyes with those eerie golden flecks.
  • Don't tell us the thief was nervous. Show us how he has to close his eyes and breathe, just to stop his hands from shaking.

On the other hand, sometimes there is information that the reader needs to know to understand the story, but forcing that information into a scene would divert the plot or bore the reader to tears.

  • Don't show us the Senators explaining to each other how the seat of the US government is Washington D.C. They have no reason to tell each other what they already know. Instead, just tell us.
  • Don't show the young wizard taking a tour of the magical staff factory, when he has no business being there. Just tell us that all magical staves are carved from the wood of the whump-whump tree.

More discussion can be found here.


90

Stay off the Internet when you're writing.

It's no timeworn tidbit, but I'll venture it's axiomatic.

A timely example:

Ten minutes ago I was primed to cap off a chapter. Now here I am, chapter-capless, browsing and clicking and typing and web-clipping, pasting notes that will make great endings or even greater stored kilobytes I'll never again ask my CPU to recall. All because I took a moment's peek into the web to see if Liu Xiaobo is trending this morning. Same goes for You, about to comment on what I posted: If this is your dedicated writing time, go away. Get offline. Online's wonderful and time-pilfering diversions will still be here when we return during less valuable hours-- such as while we set about our day jobs.


91

Write, Don't Edit!

The most important rule of all. Everything else is secondary. Even "Show, don't tell".

It is the editor in your head you have to fight. He is nagging you: "You can't do that! What garbage have you written here? Are you serious? You will never be a good writer if you keep doing scribbling this nonsense!"

Well, you can do, you are serious and you scribble all the "nonsense" you like. You have to! Every idea that flashes through your head, write it down. Kick out your editor, kick him hard. The truth is, that more than 90% is garbage, what you are writing. But you will never write down the 10% which are really brilliant if you listen to your editor.

Have you ever started to write a letter or a paragraph of your book, found a spelling error, a grammar error, and stopped writing? Have corrected the error, thought about how you can formulate that better? And after you let your editor interrupt yourself, have you tried to finish your paragraph and did not know, what the hell you wanted to write? It was all gone. You were sitting there for twenty more minutes to make something up, when you knew what you wanted to write, when you started. But you listened to the bastard in your head, the editor, and now it's all gone. Silence him! Write, don't edit. You have plenty of time editing, when everything is written down.


112

Give yourself permission to suck.

That's not to say just write bad stuff, but don't stress about the quality of your writing when you are writing it. Stressing about the quality of the work can keep you from writing and even cause writer's block. You have to accept that what you write won't be perfect at first, but you can fix it when you do your edits and rewrites.


96

Cut Adjectives and Adverbs

This "rule" is often stated more forcefully as "remove all adjectives and adverbs," but, like most of these rules, I don't think it should be blindly followed. Sometimes, an adjective or an adverb is the best way to get across exactly what you're trying to say.

The main time to avoid using them is when a stronger noun or verb would get the same point across. This is really just a specific application of a broader rule: never use two words when one will suffice. Some examples:

  • Replace "The huge man loomed over him" with "The giant loomed over him."
  • Replace "John ran quickly" with "John sprinted."

Note, however, that in most of these cases the two-word combination will have slightly different connotations than the single-word replacement. These differences are worth thinking about. Just ask yourself if what you're trying to say is worth that extra word. Think especially hard if you're using more than one adjective or adverb, as these can really stand out to readers as being overly verbose.

So, adjectives and adverbs shouldn't be cut simply on principle, but a good rule of thumb is to look at each one and double-check that it's really worth having.

More discussion here.


49

Don’t go into great detail describing places and things

This is one of Elmore Leonard's "Ten Rules." I selected it from the list almost at random -- all ten are worth heeding. I love it because it's so counterintuitive -- you want to add color and detail to your story, right? No, you don't. You want to add story to your story, and just enough descriptive detail to bring it to life, which is generally a lot less than you would think. One brilliantly-chosen detail is worth half a page of description, no matter how beautifully it was written.


34

Use correct grammar and punctuation (and of course, spelling)

Style doesn't mean squat if your manuscript doesn't flow due to incorrect spelling, grammar and punctuation. There's a reason why the "rules" are there to be followed. They work.

I thought of this is after making my own contribution to this question.


38

Know the end before you begin.

Everything has to lead up to the end. The climax is the culmination of everything in the story. By knowing the end, you can include powerful foreshadowing and ensure that you don't go off on useless tangents.


51

Writing is Rewriting

You've completed your first draft. Congratulations! Next step is to send it to an agent or a publisher, right?

Not quite yet. Especially if you are relatively new to the writing game, you will spend a lot more time revising your manuscript than you did writing the first draft. More than you think it needs now. More than you think anyone in history has ever spent. Not to sound discouraging, but you will likely need to revise it multiple times before it is saleable, and you will probably need to take breaks in between. (These can be spent working on other projects.)

With experience, you will need fewer rewrites, and less input from others on what needs to be changed to make your manuscript acceptable to a publisher. Even so, the number of writers who can sell their first drafts (or even their early drafts) is minuscule. The most successful writers still make glaring continuity errors, suffer from style inconsistencies from one part of the novel to another, have characters with unbelievable motivations, and so on, and publishers will insist that these be corrected. Some seasoned pros even have trouble with basics like grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

My sister, who has published a few romance novels, has been heard to say, upon finishing the first draft of one of her novels, "now the real work begins."


42

I like Elmore Leonard's 10 rules:

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.


69

You have to read, and read all the time.

There are no iron laws of writing. I'm sure that if I told you that it was impossible to do good writing without reading much, someone could find a handful of examples of great writers who barely read.

But for the rest of us normal human beings, writing isn't something that happens in a vacuum. To understand writing you have to see how it's been done before. Even the really bad stuff will teach you something.

So read, and don't just read one thing. Read literature, read genre, read nonfiction, read comic books; read a lot and read a lot of different things.


20

You must learn to walk before you can run


The most important rule is, first to learn to write according to the rules. When you master that, you can break them to get better results. But, like in anything where mastering a topic is hard, breaking the rules without understanding them will get really ugly. For true beauty, following the rules however does not suffice.


25

Write What You Know

This is one of those rules that I think is most often misinterpreted. Many aspiring writers and advisors take it to mean 'write only about your personal life experiences and not using your imagination at all'.

Realistically though a writer has to move beyond the strictly autobiographical and create fiction with their imagination. So how to combine the two?

A better understanding is to realise that what you know is emotions, relationships, motivations, describing people and places, tragedy, comedy, and all the many other things that make up the basics of a novel: characters, plot, humour, and drama.

In short, write about what you know: life


4

I would say,

  • First write whatever is in your mind.
  • Organize it.
  • Read it as a reader and see whats lacking and what would the reader be thinking while reading the article. Following these rules would help you make your point clearer to the readers.

Also, one good rule I know about life and writing is,

Always make improvements. When you come across something better, improve it. Make corrections in the previous articles and keep doing it. It would help you learn.


21

How to Write Good

The first set of rules was written by Frank L. Visco and originally published in the June 1986 issue of Writers' digest. The second set of rules is derived from William Safire's Rules for Writers.

  1. Avoid alliteration. Always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  8. Contractions aren't necessary.
  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  10. One should never generalize.
  11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
  12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  13. Don't be redundant; don't more use words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
  14. Profanity sucks.
  15. Be more or less specific.
  16. Understatement is always best.
  17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  23. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  24. While a transcendent vocabulary is laudable, one must nevertheless keep incessant surveillance against such loquacious, effusive, voluble verbosity that the calculated objective of communication becomes ensconced in obscurity.
  25. In a sentence, the nouns has to match the verbs.
  26. Don't use no double negatives.
  27. In writing, few things are, so to speak, more infuriating, than, say, commas, at least when there are too many of them, or when they should be, say, semicolons.
  28. Proofread your work, so you don't leave some out or forget to finish
  29. Run-on sentences are really bad because the reader saturates and what you really should be doing is using commas and semicolons and even periods to break the sentence up into more digestible chunks.
  30. To have been using excessively complex verb constructions, is to have been bopping the literary baloney.
  31. A friend I spoken with recently told me he been forgetting his helper verbs.

14

Write in the Active Voice

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned active vs. passive voice (for a good discussion, see this Q&A. Like many "rules," there are various reasons to decide otherwise, but in general the active voice is stronger than the passive.


18

"Said" is All You Need to Say

My favorite writing teacher, way back in the day, told me--rightly--that it is very rarely necessary to use more than the word "said" when writing dialogue, particularly using adverbs.

Almost every time I find myself wanting to use constructions like, "He said excitedly," or the like, I realize I'm better off just saying "said." Part of the reason this happens so much is that, as writers, we are acutely aware of each word. But readers don't notice the repetition of the verb and the adverb rarely conveys enough to be meaningful anyway.


11

Break The Rules

Most of the rules here already note that exceptions should always be made, and You must learn to walk before you can run is generally good advice.

However, these rules apply mostly to the act of writing itself. There are another set of rules in writing, those of genre. Some of the best creative writing hinges on breaking moulds. An excellent example is William Gibson's Neuromancer. Gibson is quoted in an interview as saying:

I had a sense of what the expectations of the SF industry were in terms of product, but I hated that product and felt such a genuine sense of disgust that I consciously decided to reverse expectations, not give publishers or readers what they wanted.

This example is particularly nice because it also breaks the walk-before-running rule: Neuromancer was Gibson's first attempt at a novel.


4

I was told "Normally I tell people to never use the word conclusion in the conclusion, but leave it." If you hear something similar, you did it right.


6

Develop.

When you are excited in what about you are writing, you have a good chance that your reader will be excited too.

Develop the beginning. Develop the story. Develop the ending.

Everything you write is in other words what your feel. If you feel bored, your words and writing will be the same, if you feel yourself in the story you can make impossible things.

Develop by mass writing. The more you write, the more you can be better at it.


8

Kill your darlings

The idea is that the mind is able to think "ingenious" about any old idea, and that the truth of that assessment can only be tested by trying the idea in reality.

Unfortunately sometimes an idea will not work, but the "ingenious tag" persists and we try anything we can to keep our idea in play, even bend reality!

This is when you need to remove that concept, scene, sentence in order to make the story (or any other enterprise) work.

One way to implement this is to keep a separate file (the "Darling file") where you move all your darling scenes, sentences, and concepts. That way you haven't really killed your darlings permanently dead as much as removed them "for later use" (You'll probably get back to that file in a couple of years and realize they truly were darlings and they truly did not belong in your story...)

This, of course is a rule that can be broken. An example is the author John Ajvide Lindqvist ("Let the Right One in"), who has claimed he never kills his darlings.


7

Cut 10% of your first draft in editing

This tip is from Stephen King's memoir "On Writing." He got the tip as a comment in one of his rejection letters.

The idea is that the language of your first draft is going to be flowery and full of superfluous words.

Cutting 10% of those words will tighten your prose.

King includes an example of how he edited the first draft of "1408," and rather than removing whole blocks of text or whole sentences, he had cut a word here and a couple of words there.

In my interpretation this rule should be applied to the scenes you decide to keep in the text, rather than removing whole scenes to remove 10% of the text as a whole.


8

Value a "fresh eyes" point of view on your material

This is a set of tips and techniques to try to come at your material with fresh eyes (especially after the first draft).

Set the first draft aside for a few months

When you have finished the first draft, set it aside for a few months (2-3) before you read it again.

The idea is to come at the material with somewhat fresh eyes (something that is very hard when you're the writer). It also helps to let go of it a bit before going into editing so you have a more objective view of your text.

Work with beta readers and a critique group

The beta reader usually falls into two categories (and optionally you have access to both):

  1. Readers from your target group that will be able to tell you if the story "works," if it was "engaging," and if they "liked it"
  2. Other writers, for instance in a critique group, that will also be able to talk about the craftsmanship of your writing. And, more importantly, might be able to not just say what doesn't work, but also offer advice on how to fix it.

The most important aspect of a beta reader is that they have not seen your text before and will be able to talk about it more or less objectively.


5

Write Daily.

Never let a day pass without writing something. Even if you have no ideas or mood to write just fill a page with whatever comes to mind. It doesn't matter if it is of garbage quality, just keep writing.

Many times consistency beats creativity. Also writing without any expectation increases your creativity.


2

Give yourself inspiration.

Now, I already gave an answer on the question "I can't write without an inspiration" that explained why you must give yourself inspiration.

But I'll write it here.

Now, of course I'm going to rewrite it, but this is what I mean by "Give youyrself inspiration":

Many writers face writer's block (including me). A large portion of writers tend to think that inspiration just comes.

I'm here to tell you that it doesn't.

I am a very creative person. I have a lot of story ideas. But they don't just come from nowhere. I have to make myself that way.

Here's how you can do it:

  1. Don't wait for inspiration. Unless if you are one of the few blessed, it's not coming.

  2. Read books. Not only would this improve your reading skills, it will also improve your writing and creativity. You can gain ideas from books, such as a plot twist, a character trait, or the beginning of a story line. Or other ideas. It can also help you to just plan out your stories better as well.

  3. Fantasize. (And no, not sexually; unless if it is that kind of book) What I mean is just roleplay. For example, you imagine that you are an elf, travelling with a human knight to save a kingdom or something, and you come across orcs, giants, sea monsters, etc. You might not use all of your fantasies, but it can give you inspiration.

  4. Look around for ideas. Such as media, books, movies, etc. You might like the idea of a colony being sent to mars or a parent having to rescue their kids or something.

  5. Write down a bunch of ideas and put them together in a good way. What I used was, "(This is what I sometimes have to do; write down a couple of ideas, then take the parts you like and put them into a story while getting rid of the parts you don't like) Example: I have 3 different stories: a) A girl goes onto a journey to save the race of dwarves from evil elves. b) A father has to travel the world with a phoenix in order to stop a villain in an industrial castle. c) A vulture feeds on the lives of souls, and a boy must go and stop her. Now, here's how I would improve it: I like the idea of a father, and I like the girl too, so maybe it's a father and a daughter. I like the idea of a phoenix companion, but it would seem to fit the boy better. I want the characters to meet, so the boy and phoenix will end up crossing paths with the father and daughter later. I don't like the saving the dwarves, but maybe that can be a separate race? And the vulture could be the villain in the industrial castle that they have to go and stop! (As you can see, I made a story simply by looking at a bunch of different ideas)"

  6. Practice. Just practice whenever you can. You might have to not use a lot of drafts, but perhaps they can be used for parts of another story? This will also help your writing.

  7. Listen to music. I love music. Sometimes, when I'm listening to music, the lyrics or the beat or whatever can just give me an idea for my story or help to improve it. For example, while listening to song "Kill Everyone" by Hollywood Undead, I managed to create the story line of a book. (In it, a wolf goes around killing other wolves, due to her being driven to insanity by their cruelty)

  8. Write. Even if you don't want to. Just force yourself to write something, even if you don't feel like doing it. You'll probably get some good stories this way, or potentially good stories.

All these, and more, can give you inspiration.

It's just important to remember that inspiration most likely won't come your way, and you're going to have to give yourself inspiration.