The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

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Margo
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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by Margo » June 1st, 2010, 3:22 pm

FK7 wrote:I read a story from a fellow writer every day about how some teacher in some college or university went Rambo-style on the students, forcing them to take out all adverbs, or all the "that", or other ridiculous expectations that seem to lobotomize a writer a lot more than improving the overall writing.
I would certainly acknowledge that I have met teachers (writing and otherwise) with ego issues and APD (a**hole personality disorder), but I wouldn't necessarily assume that all (or even most) are trying to destroy a burgeoning writer's creativity based on this kind of exercise. In fact, I really appreciate this kind of exercise. Early in our development, most writers have too many adverbs and too many adjectives and too many 'that's, etc etc etc. Making people take them out is not (in my experience) about forbidding the writer to use these words ever again*. It's about forcing the writer to make use of other tools that languish due to the ease and comfort of using these words that spring too easily to mind. It's about adding more skills to the writer's bag of tricks by temporarily taking away the ones they have grow to depend upon too much.

When the other skills have grown stronger, there's nothing to fear from a well-placed adverb or bookism (though I will deny under oath I ever expressed such a thing -- and I mean it).

Exercises are about developing skills, not about dictating writing style forever after.

*Note: All adverbs should still die painfully and horribly. :P
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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by Margo » June 1st, 2010, 3:23 pm

polymath wrote:In other words, fostering learning to think effectively for one's self without the crutches of everyday conversational language usage interferring with one's dynamically creative writing.
Dang it, why do my best points all look like I stole them from polymath?!? :)
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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by polymath » June 1st, 2010, 3:28 pm

Margo wrote:Dang it, why do my best points all look like I stole them from polymath?!? :)
Thinking for one's self magically seems identical to the thinking of others thinking for themselves. Like minds think alike and all that. Rapport. I had to be taught how to think for myself. It wasn't easy.
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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by BrokenChain » June 1st, 2010, 8:19 pm

FK7 wrote:
Margo wrote: I'm afraid I don't understand the conclusion that the "rules" (guidelines would be a better word, I think) are arbitrary and based on some random writer's superiority complex
Not all rules (or guidelines). Some, however, are.

I read a story from a fellow writer every day about how some teacher in some college or university went Rambo-style on the students, forcing them to take out all adverbs, or all the "that", or other ridiculous expectations that seem to lobotomize a writer a lot more than improving the overall writing.

That's basically the basis of this whole thread. Teachers or scholars like those described above. I despise all people who heir in all black or all white, and who are unable to see the gray tones in anything. Be it writing, politics or religion, people like that are in my opinion unable to think for themselves. They're the same people who will believe anything CNN reports, without questioning the facts. There's another word for people like that, but it wouldn't be politically correct.
It sounds like you don't trust authority. One can't question the validity of something one does not know about--one can't write off a "rule" because they don't trust it. One must conduct his own research, get out there and weigh both opinions honestly, and decide whether or not to ascribe to either or to make their own. However, I don't think politics and religion has anything to do with the compositional part of writing and I think you are starting to make this personal, FK7.

Here's my beef. If one actually sits back and honestly considers what these professors are saying, one is likely to find that there is merit in their argument. I've never heard of someone taking all of them out--that's impossible. They are needed, but sparingly. Again, the "ly" at the end of an adverb, placed in the middle of a sentence, turns out awkward; or, like I said before, the adverbs or adjectives used are probably redundant.

First time I heard the "it's a style choice" thing I didn't believe it. I still don't. Take, for example, this sentence:

"If you actually sit back and honestly listen to these professors, you will find that their arguments have merit."

As opposed to eliminating and rearranging some needless words:

"If you honestly sit back and listen to these professors, you will find their arguments have merit."

GASP---OMG'SH!!! BETRAYER!!! HE CHANGED HIS STYLE!!! HERETIC!!! IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!!!! RRRRGGG!!! RUN FOR COVER!--CAN'T BREATHE--COUGH COUGH COUGH--NOOOOO.....

*feels chest*

Oh wait.

This is why I don't believe the "style" thing when cutting out adverbs and passiveness and stuff. Your trademark, or "style," is the way you put words together and which words you use. Other things contribute: paragraph use, punctuation, presence of humor, use of similes and metaphors, sentence structure, length...etc. etc.

How *well* you put these things together--how well you use them--is a matter of quality (does an "aimless" after the word "wandering" REALLY make the sentence your own? Is it REALLY just not "you" if you rearrange a sentence to be more active?).

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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by FK7 » June 1st, 2010, 8:54 pm

BrokenChain wrote: I think you are starting to make this personal, FK7.
I've learned after my first practicum as a first year medstudent never to take things personal, especially not when you're debating a topic, regardless with whom you're doing it. You don't know me though, and this might seem personal to you, but it isn't. Forums are a place to gather and discuss things in a friendly atmosphere, which is what we're doing right now.

Telling someone he has authority issues six posts in, without knowing much about said person, is a little weird. You might have extrapolated this from my posts. If so, you missed my point. The religion/politics was meant to illustrate that many people cannot see shades of gray in anything, and this will be transparent in their writing. This is all regardless of their views or beliefs.

Like I said, I already went Rambo style on my own manuscript, with the help of an incredibly talented and insightful critique partner, and completely destroyed it. It was fun, and we did it according to the Chicago Manual of Style, which, if you want to bring authority in this, is the best example of it. There have been some threads about all kinds of books, where people didn't hesitate to bash Strunk's book, or King's memoir. I actually loved those two books, but I understood and respected their opinion.

The principle surrounding this topic is the same.

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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by BrokenChain » June 1st, 2010, 10:37 pm

FK7 wrote:
BrokenChain wrote: I think you are starting to make this personal, FK7.
Telling someone he has authority issues six posts in, without knowing much about said person, is a little weird.
Alright...? I said it sounded like, as in, from what I saw in that post, it sounded as if you were saying you don't trust authority. I'm not trying to be mean or anything.

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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by rose » June 1st, 2010, 11:42 pm


"Tense - Jumping tenses is obviously a big no-no. But again, its difficult to spot these mistakes, especially while writing in first person. I've already corrected a zillion of these"


How interesting that you pick this point out, Deepsesh. I am studying tense jumping with a first person pov right now. This character recalls the emotionally disturbing events of one particular day and the more he tells, the more real and immediate the experience becomes for hiim. At the end of his story,l he has forgotten that he is narrating and entered into actually reliving the experience. I am searching for just the right forshadowing moment to start that gradual slip over the course of his narrative.

But, yes, I, too often see unintentional scrambled tenses in my own and others' first drafts,with no artistic justification whatsoever. It's a natural reflection of the way our minds work, moving from present events to past moments and into future projections all in the blink of a second, I think.

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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by FK7 » June 2nd, 2010, 12:55 am

Anyone else noticed POV issues after a pass? My critique partner pointed them out to me... there weren't that many, but I was surprised I COMPLETELY missed them!

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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by Quill » June 2nd, 2010, 10:17 am

Can you give an example?

Myself I'm experimenting with a new technique where I change POV willy-nilly. lol

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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by Margo » June 2nd, 2010, 10:47 am

FK7 wrote:Anyone else noticed POV issues after a pass? My critique partner pointed them out to me... there weren't that many, but I was surprised I COMPLETELY missed them!
Yes, this used to be a huge issue for me because I didn't understand all the ways a POV slip occurs. The most common slip for me was expressing information in a way that didn't fit my character -- like having a child notice things and explain ('telling' issue there too) those observations in too mature a style for a child.

The other one that caught me was the one-sentence slip where one character is interacting with another and making assumptions about the other character's feelings. The statement would be something like: Wounded by my accusations, Jake glared at me.
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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by BrokenChain » June 2nd, 2010, 11:38 am

FK7 wrote:Anyone else noticed POV issues after a pass? My critique partner pointed them out to me... there weren't that many, but I was surprised I COMPLETELY missed them!

lol I know. It's hard because as the authors we know everything but our pov characters don't!
Quill wrote:Can you give an example?

Myself I'm experimenting with a new technique where I change POV willy-nilly. lol
.

Third person omniscient? Frank Herbert switches pov without warning in Dune, but it seemed to work well. I've only tried writing this way about three times...all of them back when I started writing for the first time. lol it's hard to keep up with.   

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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by J. T. SHEA » June 2nd, 2010, 3:57 pm

Frank Herbert was the World Champion Head Hopper! I think there's a scene in DUNE where half a dozen characters hold a meeting and we get all six or so different POVs in six different paragraphs on one page. Yet it DOES work, as BrokenChain pointed out.

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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by Margo » June 2nd, 2010, 4:55 pm

J. T. SHEA wrote:Yet it DOES work, as BrokenChain pointed out.
Yeeeah. Matter of opinion, I guess. I didn't like it even when Herbert did it. I hate to say it, but I associate changing POV's within scenes with poorly written romance. It has to do with disrupting the guided meditative state.
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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by BrokenChain » June 2nd, 2010, 7:14 pm

Margo wrote:
J. T. SHEA wrote:Yet it DOES work, as BrokenChain pointed out.
Yeeeah. Matter of opinion, I guess. I didn't like it even when Herbert did it. I hate to say it, but I associate changing POV's within scenes with poorly written romance. It has to do with disrupting the guided meditative state.
You're with the new age writing bunch then. I'm more old fashioned; I like the way Lord of the Rings was written, and thing like head hopping which are discourged now don't bother me.

My actual work fits in with the new age stuff, though.

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Re: The rules of "stronger" writing... lol?

Post by Margo » June 2nd, 2010, 8:02 pm

BrokenChain wrote:
You're with the new age writing bunch then.
Yes, yes, entirely accurate. I also align more with the writing-as-craft than writing-as-art camp, which I suspect will be spectacularly unsurprising to quite a few people.
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