What generic ‘rules’ did you abide by when you started writing that have gone out the window?
This week’s prompt couldn’t have been better timed for me as I received my developmental editing comments last week Monday. I was thrilled that there were far fewer writing style comments that for my previous book and I now feel it has been confirmed that I have improved a great deal at showing instead of telling, fleshing out ideas properly and writing dialogue that flows well.
My editor had a few great suggestions that I am busy writing into my story and also picked up one idea in the book that I hadn’t rounded out as well as I could have. As I read through my book again, after a three week break from it, I have also found a few areas that I felt could be improved on for better flow and understanding by a reader. There is definitely something to be said for leaving your book for a few weeks before you start editing [again for me]. I am now on round 5 of my editing and expect one more round of final grammar, spelling and punctuation checks before I send it to my publisher who will also find some things that need addressing. I’m still on track to publish in October so it’s all good.
I’ll tell you a secret, I was so stoked by some of my editor’s brilliant suggestions that I spent nearly the entire weekend working on my book. I didn’t bake or do fondant art or listen to audio books. I just edited and edited. It takes a long time, even if the changes are not huge, as I re-read the whole book slowly.
There are a few things that I know I do when I write and which I am finding very hard habits to break . When I was at school at the convent, we were taught to write very formally. We were not allowed to use contractions in our writing and starting a sentence with a conjunction was a serious error. One of the things my editor commented on was that I don’t use contractions in my dialogue and that this makes the conversation a bit stilted. She is right, people don’t say I am or I will or you have, they use the contraction I’m, I’ll or You’ve. This does not come naturally to me because of my twelve years of being taught to NEVER, EVER use contractions. I have to sit and literally read though the entire book, consciously changing all of these words. It took a long time so I hope I can remember and do this better going forward.
Another issue for me is starting a sentence with a conjunction like but or because. People do this when they speak, especially when they are children or when they are emotional. I have had to “get over myself” about this point to make my dialogue more natural.
I am sure there are other writing rules I’ve had to unlearn but these are the ones that have cost me the most time, other than having to remove words like very, was and had from my writing in many places. Happily, I seem to have managed to stop overusing these words quite easily.
Do you have any writing rules you regularly break in your novels?
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