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Trust your instincts

I was recently given encouragement regarding a certain aspect of my writing style. This is nothing major, but of course every bit of confidence counts in this game. It was whilst reading Stephen King’s “On Writing” that I discovered I was right all along.

First off, “On Writing” is an excellent book, and you should read it. I don’t know why I didn’t read it much much earlier.

The chapter in question concerned grammar (it’s only a short bit, and still interesting, so don’t let that put you off). Recently I had been a bit worried about whether to use adjectives or not, and especially in dialogue attribution (he said, angrily, for example). I’ve never liked using it. It always felt wrong and looked childish. But there was a nagging feeling that maybe I should be using it sometimes. After all, the words were invented for a reason.

But Stephen King says otherwise, and as soon as I read it I knew I was being stupid all along. Of course I was right! It didn’t even warrant the slightest bit of worry. Still, it’s nice to have your thoughts confirmed by a master.

I knew it already because Stephen King knew it. I read loads of King when I was younger,  so it’s no surprise that I should pick up good habits from his writing, and others. And that’s the second point of this post. It sounds obvious, but we should all be reading. Read read read read read. You probably don’t read enough – I know I don’t.

Do you sometimes have a crisis of confidence over silly little things? Maybe you disagree about adjectives. Any good examples of where they work really well?

  • Craig

    So what does the master say about describing speech? I’ve never really noted it in my own writing, but thinking about it, I’m far more likely to write the method of speech, so rather than just write “say”, I’ll write “Hissed”, or “Yelled”, or “groaned” rather than use adjectives.

  • http://getmewriting.com Matt

    Adjectives suck basically. If you feel you need to put adjectives to explain someone’s mood, then you’ve not done your job properly in other areas (I’m paraphrasing King here). Those other areas are the descriptive bits around the speech usually. But might also be characterisation and the dialogue that came before. To be honest I dislike ANYTHING around dialogue, and will even avoid “he said”, “she said” if I can help it. I try to interrupt it only if it is really unclear or there needs to be a pause for some especially big reaction or something.

    In any case, you should read this book ’tis good

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