Rules for Writers ~ Part 2
Author Roderick Hart continues with writing rules he adheres to, with an excellent piece of advice especially for new writers:
Read it aloud: Referring to the essay in which he expounded writing rules Elmore Leonard said: “My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” Note that he said ‘sounds’ like writing, not ‘reads’ like writing. This is important for two reasons. The first is that what we write should read well. If you have trouble reading out loud a passage you have written there is more work to be done. If you are aiming for an audio book as well this is even more important.
Punctuation: The second reason why this matters is punctuation. There is a set of conventions governing punctuation of the written word, but I have usually found it helpful to mark up scripts for reading aloud, and as often as not these punctuation points diverge from the convention. For example, my version of Word often tells me that a comma isn’t needed at a certain place. Well, strictly speaking it may not, but it but it helps the talent reading it to the mic and can save several takes.
Microsoft word prompts: Another habit your software may have is pointing out that a certain phrase might be more succinct: where you have used five words three would be enough. And this may be the case, but your slighter longer expression might carry an emphasis which the shorter version lacks. And then there is the question of rhythm. The shorter version may lack the rhythm of your original. Ultimately, these are questions of style and are, or should be, under the control of the author rather than software.
Afterwards: Since this post appears on the blog of a small press, the question arises: how relevant are rules for a writer hoping to be published? While some might cite the old adage that rules are there to be broken, this would not be safe at the outset of a writer’s career. Keeping to reasonable rules is more likely to result in a marketable product. No publisher would consider a book which shows a lack of competence in, and respect for, basic writing skills.
But, as was pointed out at the beginning of Writing Rules Part 1, rules for writers are forever telling you what you should avoid. What they never tell you is what you should actually do. The truth is, we must all work this out for ourselves.“
We at Eventispress would also add the advice of converting your manuscript to a format for a device such as a Kindle and read it as you would read any novel or book ~ after a break of a couple of months from your own edit that is. Also to do this before you think of agents, publishers or self publishing.
Thanks so much Rod!