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Author Antics Jack’s Rules For Writing

St John the Beloved once wrote that if all the things Jesus did were written down that the world could not contain all the books that would be written. So, when called upon to write, John says he stuck to what readers needed to know to get started and kept it short.

Just the opposite is true of books (and blogs) on writing. There are way too many in the world, most filled with nonsense that leave the reader wondering if this writing thing is a good idea because after reading them, they no longer know where to begin. To confuse the matter further, here are Jack’s rules for writing.

Rule 1. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

In his book On Writing, Stephen King, love him or hate him, has done pretty well for himself writing, has this to say, “Fiction writers, present company included, don’t understand very much about what they do—not why it works when it’s good, not why it doesn’t when it’s bad.” I must agree.

I remember finishing Blood Moon convinced that it was a disgusting piece of trash. For me, Bayou Moon clicked. I loved writing it and loved the storyline. Blood Moon seemed anything but fun or good. I told that to a podcaster during an interview later. The two hosts were astounded that I thought that. They commented that Blood Moon had all the good reviews and they loved it.

Rule 2. Know the Rules

There are successful writers who break the rules of grammar, punctuation…etc. Rule 1 aside, they knew they were doing so and that enabled them to do it well. Learn the rules, you can break them later. In a rural Emergency Room, situations arose in which the standard answer on the nursing boards—the right answer—was not the best answer. I broke rules when I needed to, but I did so with a sound rationale as to why it had to be done.

Rule 3 Love Words, Shun Wordiness

Words are the writer’s tools of the trade. Never stop building your vocabulary. Like knowing the rules, know words rather than how to run to the thesaurus. The dictionary and thesaurus are useful tools best used for checking your work when it’s done.

It’s true, words are cheap. So are good writers. Never use a $100 word where a ten-cent one will do as well. Using expensive words does not impress readers or editors. This is especially true in action scenes. Keep it as short and simple as a jab to the chin.


Rule 4. The Editor is Always Right

Many Monday nights I play trivia. The moderator has a Rule #4. “Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong, I’m always right. That’s the way we play the game.” He’s not always right by the way, but his answer is the only one for which points are awarded.

As much as we love our brilliant stringing together of the words, a good editor loves readers more. Write to please yourself but trust the editor. Their job is to hide a multitude of our writing sins and present us to the reader without spot or wrinkle.

I am not my own editor. I know that I make the same mistakes every writer makes. I also know I am blind to them until the editor calls me on it. I just edited my draft of a new book for the fourth or fifth time. I won’t tell you about all the mistakes my editor found—oops!

As a closing note, this was not reviewed by my editor before I posted it.

To be continued.

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