So, here goes:
- Always have an outline.
- Always end a chapter with a cliffhanger.
- Divide chapters into shorter scenes.
- Avoid pages and pages of internal monologue, description, or exposition. Break it up with dialogue.
- Use the verb "said" very sparingly.
- Never have characters do two things simultaneously that a real person can't do simultaneously. (e.g. "Bob said as he took a drink")
- Show, don't tell. (An obvious one, but one that I have to constantly remind myself about.)
- Begin each chapter or scene in the middle of the action.
- Chapters should be about ten pages long (when they're double-spaced with a 12-point font in Word).
- There should be about twenty to thirty chapters in a novel.
Angela's purpose in that excercise is to get you to look closely at your writing habits and drop any that don't work for you anymore. I'm working on easing up my restrictions about the outline and how long everything needs to be, but other than that, I think my list makes for stronger storytelling. A lot of them are rules that I've learned directly from other writers.
Speaking of which, the thing that got me thinking about this today is that someone just pointed me towards Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing. Click the link for Leonard's insights about each of them, but here's the short version:
- Never open a book with weather.
- Avoid prologues.
- Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
- Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”
- Keep your exclamation points under control.
- Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
- Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
- Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
- Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
He sums them all up in this one rule: "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."
Good advice that I'll be adding to my other rules.