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Greatness in Books

March 25, 2013 at 6:50 am

What makes a book great? Is it something that can be measured? I’m not sure it can. There’s no doubt that technique helps. If you follow the techniques laid down in writing, you will be more successful in communicating with the reader. Since most books set out to communicate something, technique is a good thing if it helps with that. But does technical brilliance alone define the greatness of a book? Does technical brilliance come into it at all? I guess it depends who’s doing the judging. Naturally, people who understand those techniques and try to utilise them will notice […]

“These rules, pressed far enough, contradict each other. Such is the nature of rules for art.”

March 21, 2013 at 9:36 pm

I came across this quote just the other day with another set of rules for authors and I think it sums up my response to many of the rules I have just looked at for writing a modern novel. Rules can be broken, unlike laws which are more binding. Rules are things you have in a game, and if everyone agrees, they can be changed for the benefit of all. Certainly, it’s clear the rules I have just been looking at did not apply when people like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens were writing. So they will probably change with […]

The Tenth Rule for Writing a Modern Novel

March 19, 2013 at 7:05 am

 Leave Out the Parts Readers Tend to Skip This is an odd rule. Leave out the parts readers tend to skip. And those would be …? And those would be just about impossible to predict, seeing as everyone is different. Even in my breakdown of all ten of these rules, my difference of opinion to whoever created them is clear. I like the rule about not including detailed descriptions of places, but I don’t want it to extend to the characters. I want to use verbs other than ‘said’. These are things that matter to me, but clearly, other people […]

The Ninth Rule for Writing a Modern Novel

March 17, 2013 at 7:14 am

Avoid detailed descriptions of places or things For the first time we have a rule that I really like! I can’t stand huge descriptions of the background unless they are an integral part of the story. Personally, I’ve never been good at ‘painting’ in a background, whether it’s with words or anything else. Even as a child, if I was given a drawing to colour in, I would usually colour in the main characters and not bother with the background, because it wasn’t interesting to me. Of course, some description is necessary, especially if the world your reader has been […]

The Eighth Rule for Writing a Modern Novel

March 12, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Avoid Detailed Descriptions of Characters This is one I’ve definitely broken in my first novel. In fact, there used to be a lot more, but I edited it out. I love hearing about characters, as long as they are ones who are important to the story. Now, I’m guessing this advice is trying to tell you to introduce more of them in during the story, rather than just in a huge description at the beginning of a novel. But, as a reader, I don’t always like that. I’m sure there are people out there who, like me, do like a […]

The Seventh Rule for Writing a Modern Novel

March 10, 2013 at 7:16 am

Use Dialect Sparingly I do agree with this rule. When this rule says ‘dialect’ it’s talking about (I think!) those passages where characters start talking like this, “‘e said that ‘e couldn’t roolly work out that what I was talkin’ ‘boot.’ While I don’t mind this in small doses, in big ones it can be very annoying. I can remember skipping passages of the book Wuthering Heights because I couldn’t understand what one of the characters was saying, as the writing was so dialect-heavy. So there can definitely be too much. Not only that, but you need to make sure […]

The Sixth Rule for Writing a Modern Novel

March 6, 2013 at 6:43 am

Never use the words ‘suddenly’ or ‘all hell broke loose’ I haven’t ever used ‘all hell broke loose’, but I do confess that there are a few ‘suddenly’s in The Heir. It’s interesting, because even before I saw this list, I didn’t really like them there, but I wasn’t sure if I was fussing about nothing. It looks like I wasn’t fussing about nothing! So although they will appear in The Heir a few times I will try and cut them out of its two sequels. So what do I put instead of ‘suddenly’? I guess it depends on the […]

The Fifth Rule for Writing a Modern Novel

March 3, 2013 at 7:07 am

Keep Your Exclamation Points Under Control I love using exclamation points. A lot. You can probably tell just from what I’ve written so far on this website! But there is definitely a point, especially in a book, where they can become too much. I also don’t like it when, in professional writing, I see a string of them – !!!!!!!!!! after dialogue. You really only need one to communicate that the person is surprised or shouting or whatever. I don’t think adding exclamation points increases the level of the character’s anger. But when using single exclamation points how much is […]

The Fourth Rule for Writing a Modern Novel

February 28, 2013 at 7:06 am

Never use an adverb to modify the verb ‘said’ I have less of a problem with this rule, but I still don’t think it’s hard and fast. There is a definitely a degree of truth to it. Do we really need to write ‘Jane said excitedly’ or should Jane’s words carry across the realisation that she is excited? Is it necessary to put in terms like ‘gravely’ or ‘loudly’ or ‘boorishly’ to communicate how the character is speaking? I think it is correct that these things are often not needed. I have tried to avoid them as much as possible […]

The Third Rule for Writing a Modern Novel

February 25, 2013 at 7:06 am

Never Use a Verb Other than ‘Said’ to Carry Dialogue I hate this rule. I do understand it. When I read books where it seems that the writer must use something different every time a character opens his mouth it can get annoying very quickly. If they think they MUST avoid ‘said’ at all costs and use ‘protested’ or ‘interrupted’ or ‘exclaimed’, trying to find a different one each time – ugh! However, I don’t think going in the other direction and using ‘said’ every time is a good idea either. I first encountered this rule when I was doing […]