Alleycat: ELEVEN SUPER RULES FOR EFFECTIVE WRITING
A list given to [a113ykat’s class] by [her] creative writing prof. [She] have found it to be quite useful, especially in the editing phase. Use at your own discretion ;)
1. Use only concrete, physical nouns.
2. Choose the most specific possible nouns: “convertible” or “Mercedes,” not “car.”
3. Verbs must be active. Avoid “to be” like it was Ebola.
4. Make the subject of the verb do something that subject doesn’t normally do. Not “the chainsaw cuts” or even “the chainsaw shreds” but “the chainsaw stencils the silence” (as Al Purdy said).
5. No adjectives!
6. But if you must use an adjective, it should not normally apply to the noun it modifies.
7. No adverbs!
8. But if you must use an adverb, it should modify its verb in a surprising or incongruous way.
9. Never compare anything to anything else (i.e., death to similes—no “like” or “as”). Juxtapose directly.
10. The things you juxtapose should be wildly unlike each other. Not “The moon, a face” but e.e.cummings’s “the moon rattles like a piece of angry candy.” Yes, that breaks the simile rule.
11. Avoid –ing words as you would avoid the plague.
and boooooom, another boring NY Times bestseller is born!
(honestly, this is the biggest pile of bullshit i’ve read this month so far.)
I tryyyyy to avoid adverbs (not very, heh, successfully) just they tend to be redundant.
But most of this list. Man.
WHAT DID ADJECTIVES EVER DO TO YOU, LIST WRITER
There are a couple of good things in here… specificity is good, yes; active verbs, yes, not least because they help you avoid passive voice, and from my editing observations, most inexperienced authors do rely far too much on “to be” helping verbs… but mostly this is WTF, and really, there are no rules on writing that can’t and shouldn’t be broken by a truly skilled writer.
(And seriously, no abstract nouns? Huh?)
Yeah like I think what this list is trying to say is that you shouldn’t get bogged down in description that is redundant or ultimately means nothing…??
But yeah I don’t think there are any quantifiable rules for what makes good writing. Good storytelling maybe, but not writing…