Rules for writing
Top Ten lists (or Top 100 or whatever) are, except for Yahweh, foolish exercises — and completely irresistible. Especially when they concern writing, and especially to the weak-minded like me. And especially when they take as their starting point the likes of Elmore Leonard, whose decalogue he summarizes with a famous Eleventh Commandment that I couldn’t agree with more:
“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
Thus inspired, the Guardian recently asked a number of writers for their do’s and don’t's on writing — fiction in this case, but many apply to other forms of writing. Via ALDaily, Part One here, and Part Two here.
Your favorites? I do find these exercises useful in learning a few things, yes, but increasingly to remind myself of things I already knew. I found teaching journalism for a couple semesters very helpful (not sure what the students got out of it) in crystallizing or re-forming all sorts of “rules” about writing that I’d forgotten or had known only instinctively, or never knew in the first place. Perhaps that is what preaching can do for the preacher? Not a natural writer, I was fortunate to have been formed in journalism (old time, old media) with its constant editing and space constraints. One resents such strictures even as they greatly improve one’s writing. It is amazing how quickly, when freed of such oversight, I throw off the reins and resort to old vices.