I wanted to come in here and write something profound and memorial, but alas, it ain’t gonna happen today. I hope what I do say speaks to you anyway.
I joined a writers group while I was fired up, excited and anxious to learn ‘the right way’ to write, you know -By The Rules. Most of you did too, I suspect. What I found was confusion.
Do it this way - no, do it that way. This is Passive - bad. Take out all of the --was's--and this will be a great story!
What? Sometimes, believe it or not, passive is called for. What are the rules? Has anyone made a list and promised, “Follow these rules and your writing will be perfect?“ I haven’t seen one, and believe me, I've looked everywhere.
In my un-expert opinion, which I’ve earned the right to express because of the copious amounts of novice writer items I choose to read, I think the rules lie in the spelling, punctuation, grammar and common sense consistency in the storytelling. And the grammar is definitely flexible - it should match the characters. Real people don't always talk with perfect grammar. I love dialect. It’s spicy, real, and it can carry a weak plot.
Dialect speaks with incorrect grammar. Get over it!
Traditional, correct sentence structure won’t automatically make a story great either.
Incomplete sentences are commonly spoken amongst us common folks. The writing may be perfect technically, but how’s the story? Does it live, or does it sit stiffly cold and proper as a manikin?
Once you consider yourself a writer, and you know the rules, you are entitled to write your own story.
Errors are out, but good writers can occasionally break the rules for effect, if it fits the context of the story. Variety with clarity usually works. If you need to use the word --was-- use it! Like anything though - don't overdo. Using too many of these small, filler or connecting words will only cause a reader to become bored.
That is bad.
The more I read and study reviews of others, the more I realize I’ve also been aping the advice of ‘experts’ in my reviews. There are some ridiculous and damaging suggestions given to both novice and experienced writers.
The ones who know the rules can smile and ignore the bad advice, but the novices are left floundering.
I’ve sadly watched one particular work go from potentially good to definitely bad by using these ‘Rules’ given as suggestions, because the reviewer did not consider the context. The life was taken right out of it.
I’ve read plenty of How-To books while searching for the hidden, secret mysteries of writing well. The advice differs with each article because each writer speaks from his own viewpoint and style. They aren't bad especially; they all contain good advice and learning is always a good thing. Just hold on to your common sense and remember that advice isn't the same as rules that must be followed.