The rules you need to adhere to to be a good writer are many, according to internet forum ‘experts’. Join any writers group on facebook, goodreads or a dozen other places I could mention and there will always be someone willing to tell you the rules, or more likely castigate you for not adhering to them. Here then is a truism…
‘Those who can do, those who can’t teach, whether the pupil wants to be taught or not…’
I mention this because I fell afoul of one of these ‘experts’ recently, who was telling me I was doing everything wrong. I in return asked the civil question, ‘How many books have you written?’ to which they replied, ‘None, but I am working on a novel.’ which they had apparently been doing for several years. They were also, they assured me, ‘certain it will be a best seller as I know how to write…’
‘I see.’ I said.
Now, I don’t have any issue with someone giving advice, when it is asked for, but the person in question was not giving advice as much as berating another wannabe writer who had put a sample of there work up and asked for comments. In fairness they did ask… but I felt the ‘advice’ been given by our ‘expert’ basically amounted to abuse and an attempt to shred this poor wannabes’s confidence with a host of rules they had not followed. Hence I asked them how many books they had written. there may have been a deliberate typo or two in my question as well. Occasionally one feels one must wave a red rag and a bull to distract them from goring someone less able to defend themselves, because which I abhor bullies… Because while ‘wannabe’ needed advice, they didn’t need the sanctimonious tripe coming out the self-proclaimed ‘expert’ who has never written a book themselves.
‘What do you mean ‘I see’?’ asked the ‘expert’.
‘Well,’ said I, ‘it explains why your talking so much crap, perhaps you should concentrate on writing your novel more and less on telling others how to write their’s’
It went down hill from there, unsurprisingly, he called me several unimaginative expletives. I replied with calm candor that. ‘I would of thought an expert writer like yourself could think of better ways to express yourself.’
He used a few more expletives, then said ‘what do you know about writing, how many novels have you written?’ cleverly, one assumes he thought, turning my own question back upon me…
‘Six, though ones just a novella, oh and a book of short stories that coming out in a month or two, I’m in lots of anthologies with my short stories as well. I find it eminently more rewarding to write my own than to tell other people how they should write theirs.” I told him.
There were more expletives, but I was bored by this point and blocked him as frankly life is frankly too short, I did however give Wannabe the list of rules for good writing I have pinned above my desk. the Wannabe seemed to appreciate the advice, and a couple of minor pointers about their own work I thought would help, those mostly my advice was don’t post an exert on facebook because the ‘experts’ there are often toxic arseholes. What the ‘expert’ thought of my rules I’ve no idea, but then the humorless arse probably would missed the point…
- 1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
- 2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
- 3. Avoid cliches like the plague. They’re old hat.
- 4. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
- 5. Be more or less specific.
- 6. Writers should never generalise.
- Seven. Be consistent.
- 8. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous
- 9. Who needs rhetorical questions?
- 10. Exaggeration is a million times worse than understatement
- 11. Avoid carefully, prudently and judiciously the overuse of adverbs
- 12. Avoid writing lists
Oh and one last one… because Mz Goldberg advice here is a real gem…