They’re Really More Like Guidelines

Happy Day 1 of NaNoWriMo! October just flew by this year. Hopefully everyone had a great Halloween/NaNo’s Eve and are now furiously typing away.

For today’s blog post, there’s really just a quick reminder that seems to be far too often forgotten when people start to argue about “writing rules.” Where there is a ton of really good advice out there about how to make writing better/stronger, but it really is just that: advice.

When people begin to argue whether alternatives to “said” should be avoided or if adverbs are best to be avoided, the go to response tends to be “well, find a book with no adverbs” or similar. That is, of course, taking the arguments to an extreme. Any standard advice you might read is a general guideline that tends to make for stronger writing. It is not an absolute that “you can’t write a good book without taking this as cardinal law.” You don’t need to hold witch hunts for telling, adverbs, or anything else people will generally tell you to avoid. You can even do the exact opposite of the advice if that is what works for you. The important thing, when it comes to creative writing, is you’re allowed to be creative. If you can make something work, then it works. Certain things are just easier to make work than others.

And that is where the advice comes in. Adverbs can be great. Much of the time, they become a crutch for weaker word use. Other tags rather than “said” can work well, as well, but often times they can be distracting.

So, while you’re writing, do what’s best for your story. You are the author and need to decide if an adverb is what is needed or not. Just keep advice in the back of your mind so you don’t fall back on things that are damaging rather than helpful.

Happy NaNo and happy writing!

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