Writing’s Aphorisms

Over the past couple weeks I have passed along a list that my instructors mentioned in class. It is a list of some mistakes that beginning storytellers (like me) make.

Top Ten Mistakes Newbie Writers Make
10. Flat writing with weak verbs
9. Setting and description delivered in large chunks

8. Telling instead of showing

7. Talking heads instead of narration

6. A book that begins with a flashback or dream

5. Too far removed from the inciting incident
4. The characters lack yearning the “hole in the soul”

3. Limited conflict or attention

2. Head hopping

1. No scene structure and action is episodic

Other Rules and Strictures

There are other “rules,” such as James N Frey’s ten rules and Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing, which includes: “never open a book with weather,” “never use an adverb to modify the verb ‘said’,” and “keep your exclamation points under control.” I can’t show you all of them because, Elmore Leonard now has written a book around his aphorisms. It’s $15 and I probably will pick up a copy.

I admit that I like rules and, by nature, I’m not a rule breaker. I have some friends, who I have met through youwriteon.com, and they love to point out writers when they don’t follow the rules. “Look,” they say, “so and so started with the story with…” One such example of rule ignoring is JK Rowling and her Harry Potter books, he asseverated knowledgeably! One of them steered me toward an entry on Emma Darwin‘s This Itch of Writing blog – “Demandingly ‘wrong’-headed,” that started with the “rules” and ended with being taught how to write.


One dismisses standards at one’s peril. Check out this one example on JA Konrath’s blog, “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing” titled “Bad Stories.”

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