- Don’t describe concurrent action. “As Joe walked in the room, he took off his coat.” This forces the reader to backtrack within the same sentence. They may not notice, but in their brains the wheels and cogs will need to reread, as follows: “Let’s see, he walked in the room. Got it. Oh wait, he’s also taking off his coat. Let me start over.” Instead, place these actions one after the next: “Joe walked into the room and took off his coat.”
- When a character asks a question, don’t qualify it with asked: “Are you going to take off your coat as you walk in the room?” she asked. It’s redundant. The question mark already alerts the reader that this is a question.
- Don’t write dream sequences. Dream sequences are as much fun to read as they are to hear (except when described by your significant other). But writers love to write dreams because they tell so much about the inner life of their characters, more than the character is sometimes aware of. And therein lies the rub: dream sequences distance readers because the events aren’t actually happening to the character. After the dream ends, it’s back to the regular story. And if important events, memories, symbolism, exposition, etc., are exposed only through a dream, then it’s best to back the truck up and rethink you’re strategy. I know this. I’ve done this. I wrote a great dream sequence, where all the women in a character’s life were gathered in a room and discussed what they really thought about this character. It was great. I mean, how else to convey this information? Well, it shouldn't just come miraculously in a dream. I ended up cut the scene from my novel because it slowed the story to a bloodless crawl. And the scene before and the scene after had nothing to do with the dream. Cutting it was simple; there were no ripple effects. And that’s what dreams do to your story; they leave no ripple. They are anti-matter, anti-scenes that nobody needs.
For a different view, here’s a seasoned reader’s list of rules for writers, in case they care to consider their audience while they write.
What rules have you adopted? What helps you get through your writing day?