Knowing how NOT to write doesn’t mean knowing how to do it

Although, I know a lot of what not to do when writing fiction, it doesn’t necessarily mean I know how to do it. As odd as it sounds, it happens.

Realization came on me these days. I don’t know if this is a normal stage writers arrive to as they spend more time writing, but it’s a hard to accept that the path may be longer that expected. It falls in the area of “the more you know the less you understand…” But how can this be possible? Let me explain it with examples and detail:

So far, I’ve learned these rules for good fiction writing: (mostly grammar and style rules)

  • Avoid using the “be” verb, try using stronger verbs.
  • Avoid using adverbs or at least decrease their usage as much as possible.
  • Avoid using redundant expressions: “the fact that”, “he is a person who”, etc.
  • Show don’t tell. A hard one to understand but finally sinking into my neurons.
  • Preferred using the simple tag “said” rather than “opined, implored, wailed, etc”. There are times when you don’t even need the tag, you could just use the action performed by the character.
  • Avoid when possible using passive voice, give more strength by using active voice.
  • Vary the length of sentences in a paragraph. Combine short ones with long ones.
  • Vary the type of sentences in a paragraph. Use variety and mix different forms of sentences.
  • Don’t mix POVs in a single scene. It’s confusing.
  • Find the voice of each character. Characters should be sound different from the other. They should be dimensional, not flat.
  • And so many others rules to follow…

Keep Calm and Follow the rules

I’ve been reading many books on how to write, how to improve writing, how to create compelled characters, good plots, how to nail punctuation, etc. And in spite of this information, I find my writing is not yet where I would like it to be. My paragraphs don’t read as beautifully as Harper Lee’s or Alice Munro’s. They’re structured well, but I still find them simple, and far from being mesmerizing. I realize this is perhaps due to my scarce experience or the fact that I still need to improve my vocabulary. I realize the above rules are not enough to know how to write.

I understand these are the natural consequences of trying to find your own voice and that the only solution rests in getting more experience, reading more, and writing more. It gets harder, but that is the point in life, isn’t it? It would be boring if everything would be easy as pie.

easy as pie

And you, have you ever reached this realization?



Published by Carla Doria

Writer, blogger, traveler, mindful of a spiritual path (or at least trying to). I'm also a Happiness Engineer and support people building their websites.

2 thoughts on “Knowing how NOT to write doesn’t mean knowing how to do it

  1. If you are anything at all like me when it comes to the craft of writing, whatever you write will never be what you think it should be or what you want it to be. Moreover, don’t forget, some rules can be broken if it fits in with what you’re writing. Sometimes an incomplete sentence is a full sentence. Sometimes a character is flat because that character is suppose to be that boring. Sometimes repetitions strengthens the passage or scene. And don’t forget that there’s always the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th draft to correct what you believe is totally wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I’ve actually realized that obeying all the rules makes the writing rather boring. So I’m starting to break the rules in this search for my own writing voice 🙂 One good thing to know though is that you must know the rule before breaking it, so at this point I feel more comfortable with the idea of breaking these rules than a year ago perhaps. Thanks for stopping by!


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