“The hatred of adverbs amongst writers, and specifically teachers of creative writing, has become so commonplace, so unquestioned, and so unthinking, that it ranks only with ‘show, don’t tell’ as the most ubiquitous cliché in writing advice.” Colin Dickey
The thing about clichés is that many of them are accurate. It’s how they become clichés. “Show, don’t tell” is essential writing advice. It is how “He went here, he went there, he did this, he did that” becomes “The crowded train to the edge of the city was oppressive but the only alternative was to take the bus since what he was heading to was the mechanic’s workshop holding his car hostage until he paid the enormous repair bill. And the only thing he hated more than mechanics was buses.”
But the ongoing campaign against the use of all adverbs isn’t helpful at all. So whenever anyone says that writers shouldn’t use them, I want to scream, “Stop telling me what to do!” No adverbs in that sentence so they shouldn’t be too offended unless the screaming puts them off. But oops! One has snuck in. (Don’t see it? It’s the “too”.) Does that little modifier render everything I’ve written here unreadable? I don’t think so. Apparently some do. Uh oh, there’s another! (“Apparently.”)Continue reading
The English language is one of the hardest in the world to master and only seems to be getting harder thanks to its constant evolution. The fact that there are so many different opinions about what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” doesn’t make it any easier, especially for those wanting to edit their writing and looking for definitive answers. After all, as writers, we generally don’t want to get involved in the battle. We just want to know who won.
Unfortunately, I don’t have good news on that front. Because while there are some definitive rules, there are also styles that change depending on which country or publication you write in and there are even preferences that individuals make up their own mind in relation to.Continue reading
Remember when you were a kid? A large part of the learning process was accomplished by doing. And then being screamed at by an adult to never do it again. Like putting your hand under the running hot tap. Like running out onto a road to collect a ball without checking for oncoming cars. Like riding a mini motorbike into a barbed wire fence (okay, so maybe this one was only me).
It would have been so much easier if someone had told me before I did any or all of these things not to do them instead of waiting until after I’d done them and then shouting at me. Maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference. But we’ll never know because nobody thought to try the learning process in a different order.
Even for older children these days, a common refrain is, “But nobody told me not to do it.” So here’s a few commandments for writers out there. You probably shouldn’t have to be and don’t need to be told these things. But just in case, here they are so that you can never say, “But nobody told me not to do it.”Continue reading
Last post I talked about not having written poetry for such a long time before posting my newest poem, a triolet. And then, just like that, I wrote another triolet – literally. For anyone who needs reminding it’s a poem with eight lines in which the rhyming structure is ABAAABAB and in which the first, fourth and seventh lines are identical and the second and eighth lines are identical.Continue reading
It’s been a long time since I focused on writing poetry but as I was reading my dictionary recently, I came upon an entry that described a triolet as a poem with eight lines in which the rhyming structure is ABAAABAB and in which the first, fourth and seventh lines are identical and the second and eighth lines are identical. I had to have a go, so here is the result. And as a consequence, the first poem I have written in many years.Continue reading