I’ve been doing some editing of my book of short stories and saw a website of do’s and don’t’s of fiction writing. Here’s a don’t–don’t pay any attention to their advice. What a bunch of academic, standardized tripe! And all advising the same things to avoid. Clearly, these people have been indoctrinated in creative writing workshops or classes. Oops! One demerit. I used the word, clearly. They advise against it. Also, don’t use frequently, often, really, very, half the prepositions in the English language, too many verbs to list here and oh, I also shouldn’t have used the word also at the beginning of this sentence. Two more demerits, or is it three? I will admit that using the word really to modify adjectives is kind of lame (by the way, don’t use kind of either). She had really pretty hair, or, the sky was really blue–yeah, that’s lame. But occasionally, it’s use for modifying a verb is effective, as is its use in dialogue. An example from my book: When she left, we boys asked if he really wouldn’t hit Frank if he started something. Pete said, “If he comes back, I’ll beat the shit out of him.” That made us all feel a lot better.
You’re not supposed to use a lot a lot either; so keep that in mind. And feel is one of the verbs you shouldn’t use. Christ, I can’t even write a blog. And don’t write: began to something something or started to something something. Just say, he somethinged. Oh shit! You’re not supposed to use the word just either. One more demerit.
A few lines from the same page of Nathaniel West’s The Day of the Locust (though not in order): …she began to tell what had happened. Instead, she turned her back on him to examine herself in the wall mirror. She realized that he must be pretty sick. She didn’t turn around… The fun they used to have…. She used to ride piggy-back…
The words in bold are words or terms that these idiots say you should avoid using. Yes, that includes turn or turned. Before you ask, NO! in his sentence: …she began to tell what had happened, the action is not interrupted. On the same page, she began to sing and began to sob–again actions uninterrupted. West also (oops! another demerit) uses almost and always a few times on that same page–two more no-no’s. By the way, The Day of the Locust was ranked #73 on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 best English language novels of the twentieth century, but what do they know.
A few more examples: Don’t use then, don’t start a sentence with there was or there is. Somebody needs to let Charles Bukowski and Hemingway know about those writing no-no’s. Oops! not suppose to use need either. I’m not making this shit up. Oh, and don’t use not either. I’m serious, these are all words you need (damn it) to avoid.
Is it any wonder that the work coming from the creative writing crowd all sounds the same: pretentious, contrived and affected. So let me give you a little advice. Stop spending tens of thousands of dollars to sit around and listen to pedagogues for four years. Instead, go to a library and read the good stuff. And use those thousands to travel or live la vida loca. Then maybe you’ll have something to write about other than college life or your failed relationship. Oops! I used then. Are you allowed to use maybe? Maybe I’ll look it up.