Grammar and Style are Not Important

Grammar and Style are Not Important

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It’s important to read what the experts have to say about grammar and style. It’s not important to follow their rules slavishly.

Which is better, clear writing that violates the rules or confusing writing that obeys them?

Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” is the best grammar book I ever read. It’s the only one I ever read all the way through. I hate grammar books. Any other grammar book I’ve tried was like reading a dictionary. Most of what I knew about grammar and style before reading Strunk and White came from reading other writers. If you read enough, you can pick it up.

How important is it to understand the rules of grammar and style?

There is no great value in being able to ace an exam on the subject. On the other hand, there is value in being able to read a sentence and know whether it is good.

“The Elements of Style” says it is important to know the rules first and then to know when to break them. The book is 100 years old now and still the only grammar book you will ever need. I’m not trying to sell you the book. There are free pdfs of the original available online. I buy a hard copy of the Strunk and White version every few years, read it, and pass it on thinking I won’t read it again. Someday I’ll learn to hang on to it.


Article by Ivan Izo.

Published in: on July 12, 2014 at 2:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Naming Your Characters

Naming Your Characters

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The easy way to name your characters is to just think up a name that seems appropriate for someone in their position and use that name. For minor or single appearance characters, that’s okay. There are reasons that just any name won’t do when it comes to main characters. The reader needs to be able to remember the name and recognize them when they reappear. How can you pick good names?

Good Character Names

The best character names are one of a kind. No other writer has used the name before and not much comes up in an internet search. Just for fun, I did a search for Zedock Balbao, a name I made up. I got 9 results and none were for the full name. Sounds like a good name for an Italian detective specializing in tracking international serial killers.

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Published in: on July 8, 2014 at 9:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Where to Find Police Procedurals for Writers

Writer on Fire

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When I had this article idea, I believed police procedurals were descriptions of the methods used by police to investigate crime. That’s only partly true. Police procedurals are a genre of detective fiction that follows actual police procedures.

If you are only going to follow one detective in your book, you can almost dispense with proper procedures. Some detectives ignore the rules. In making your protagonist true to life, they will follow their own path. On the other hand, they will still need to work with a police force.

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Published in: on July 6, 2014 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Multiple Draft Process

Writer on Fire

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The process of writing using multiple drafts can apply to everything from emails to technical documents to entire books. In fact, most books that get finished are written using the multi-draft process. If you were to try and write a book from beginning to end just as it would appear in print in one pass, the results would not be good. Planning is important for good writing.

A well planned piece of writing begins with an idea. The author then expands the idea into an outline of what they want to say or the story they want to tell. Either before or after the outline, a synopsis is written that summarizes the entire piece in one or two lines for a short article and in several pages for a full length book. Next the outline and synopsis are merged and more details are added. This is often a long list of headings and points to be covered. The first draft is a quick and sloppy full length write up. The second draft is a review and rewrite of the first draft. The final draft is the last chance for repairs, additions and editing. Let’s look at it one step at a time.

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Published in: on July 4, 2014 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Start Your Novel With Action

Action

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Your novel needs to start with action right from the first line. The first line needs to make them finish the first paragraph. The first paragraph needs to make them want to finish the first chapter. The end of the first chapter needs to compel them the read the next chapter. Are you seeing a pattern here?

But Why?

Why do you want to do this? Readers are deciding whether to stick with your book right from page one. They may be checking it out in a book store or reading the sample first chapter online. You want them to like what they read and that means it can’t be boring.

Starting with an exciting chapter gets your readers through chapter one. If you’re smart, you’ll write a page turner. You can find some tips on that in my article What Makes an Article into a Page Turner? With page turners, every chapter ending makes them want to read the next chapter right through to the end. That’s what sells books. But, you have to get the hook in at the start of the first chapter.

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Published in: on July 3, 2014 at 3:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Relationships in Fiction

Relationships in Fiction

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Any story becomes more human when you add relationships. How many relationships depend a lot on the characters and story.

Loners

When you are following a sociopathic character, relationships may not exist. Most sociopaths are loners. On the other hand, all loners are not sociopaths. Some people just feel better when there is no one else around.

Friends

People tend to have a lot of friends early in life and fewer as they get older. Except for the loners mentioned above, your character’s will all have friends. Don’t just give them work friends and relatives. We all keep up relationships with people from our past even when we or they have changed. So should your characters.

Romances

If you’re writing a murder mystery, romance doesn’t come into the main story. If you want your detective to be hard-boiled, romance won’t be a big factor although sex might be. If your detective is just a normal person doing a job, their love life will show their human side.

For any other kind of adult novel, romances are going to be a part of characters’ lives. Even people who live alone are usually not part of the forever-alone group.

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Published in: on June 30, 2014 at 1:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Writing for Clarity – No Ifs, Ands, or Buts

Writing for Clarity

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In university, you are taught to write essays that are well balanced. You need to present both sides of the issue without bias. If your paper happens to be biased in the same way as your professor that will be okay. They won’t even notice. I know. I wrote biased papers when I knew the prof’s bias and got high marks.

When you write in the real world, most paid writing requires a bias. Conservative magazines want a conservative slant. Liberal want liberal. Feminist want feminist. Ecological mags need you to be certain of global warming. You get the picture.

Unless you’re guest blogging, you’re not forced to take a side. Well balanced articles may be the result. There are good reasons you may not want to write balanced articles.

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Published in: on June 29, 2014 at 11:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Writer on Fire’s 10 Best Articles on Prolific Writing

Writer on Fire's 10 Best

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Since 2009, I’ve written many articles on prolific writing. The following are my10 best.

On Free-writing and Spontaneous Writing describes two kinds of writing exercises that can get you pumping out words on days you can’t seem to get going.

How To Use Pulp Fiction Methods For Quality Writing talks about the advantage of using pulp fiction methods for writing first drafts.

Think Less – Write More is about turning off your internal editor and how to use the editor when it won’t shut up.

How to Think Like a Prolific Writer presents six methods that will help you think like a prolific writer.

Become a Master Writer in Only 10,000 Hours talks about the importance of writing a much as you can because writers are made, not born.

Prolific Writing is a Skill talks about the importance of continuing to learn as you write.

Six Secrets to Prolific Writing presents some common sense tips that will get you writing more.

Pulp Fiction – Feast or Foul? explains why writing pulp fiction is a bad idea and then gives reasons for you to give it a try.

Write More Daily is about overcoming distractions and taking steps to increase your productive writing.

Writer’s Block: Myth or Reality? teaches you how to develop the tools to wipe out writer’s block using problem specific cures, blanket cures, and methods that overpower writer’s block.

There are so many ideas here that you may not want to read them all in one sitting. On the other hand, you can always make notes. Every prolific writer has that skill. If you’re not a note taker already, today is a great day to start.


Article by Ivan Izo.

Published in: on June 28, 2014 at 4:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What is a Good Article Length?

What is a Good Article Length?

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The perfect article length is one that answers the question from the headline completely with no unnecessary words. That perfect length article could be 300 words in point form or 1200 words explained in detail. What are internet readers looking for?

Internet readers are looking for answers to questions. Most are not visiting to have a leisurely read. They want to read a quick article and move on. What do the writing forums say about article length?

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Published in: on June 24, 2014 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Do You Have Too Much Dialog?

Do You Have Too Much Dialog?

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It’s sometimes said that dialog must get right to the point so that you can get back to the story. Nothing is happening while the characters are talking. Of course, that’s not true. Ideas are being kicked around. Decisions are being made. Side stories are being told. Good dialog advances the story.

When critics complain about dialog, what they are unhappy with are two person debates that don’t go anywhere. Those are arguments along the lines of “Is not” “Is too” but more complex. Discussions like that show up in some stories because the writer finds it easy to write. It makes the pages of a first draft fly by. Smart writers omit useless dialog.

The dialog in good books serves many purposes.

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Published in: on June 20, 2014 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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