Being a rogue

Pile of old books with reading glasses on desk

Recently I stumbled on Penny Watson, author extraordinaire, and thoroughly enjoyed her take on some common writing tips. This author sounds like she and I operate on the same frequency.

I agree with Penny on the writing/walking symbiosis. When I walk, I write. I’m right there with you Penny. I make sure I carry my phone at all times when walking so I am able to record plot points, especially twists, that emerge as brief aha moments, which are destined to evaporate if I fail to save them some place more reliable than my brain. At times I find myself immersed in dialogue, chatting away as I play out scenes of conversation between my characters, then find I have to pretend I’m talking to my dog when a I spy another walker coming my way.

Adverbs are not Satan

Adjectives are not Satan

Yeah, I’m happy to find someone willing to say that. Sure, I’m not partial to the sort of writing of old where the plot gets lost in the detail. But adverbs and adjectives were invented for a reason. They are part of the English language, so why do we have to shun them like outcasts? I view them like chocolates or pudding with lots of cream. Used sparingly (there, see, it wasn’t that horrible to read was it?) they have their place.

It is the same with semicolons and colons; they’re in any grammar and punctuation book, honest. I read a style guide from a publisher, instructing their author’s to cut out all semicolons and colons as they were obviously considered, in this instance, Satan to fiction. They also said to keep sentences to a certain limit—I think it was no more than three lines—and paragraphs were also expected to be reined in. Sounds like a straight jacket approach to creative writing to me.

Don’t have too many people read your book. I experienced this first hand as a member of a writing group. We decided to publish an anthology that involved everyone in the group editing each others’ work. While it meant each story ended up clean from basic grammar and spelling mistakes without the need for an external editor, it did mean there were a few matters of diverging opinion on what needed changing (we made it in the end with everyone still talking to each other). This is because art is subjective. It’s the reason why the same book can have reviews ranging from two stars to five stars. Too many editors can mean you’re author voice starts to disappear.

So thanks Penny for the fun read. I’m going to start putting some of your 25 tips into practice.

T.J. Adams x

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