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Let it Flow

January 15, 2011 by Fiction Editor Beth Hill
last modified January 17, 2011

My last four articles focused on the mechanics of writing: the *how-to’s and shoulds and should nots. Good information, and interesting, but even I was ready to concentrate on something different.

While the mechanics of grammar and punctuation are essential, sometimes what’s more important is to step away from the rules and the learning and just write. Get the words flowing. Write a scene or a chapter. Write some dialogue. Write a confrontation. Write your ending. Go after the fiction as if today were the last day to move those ideas from your head to your hard drive.

So today’s post is simply an encouragement to write. Don’t let the rules overwhelm. Don’t think you have to wait until you know every single particular of punctuation before you can begin your novel. Don’t be stopped by questions of usage when you have plots churning and characters itching to travel their own yellow brick road.

When it’s time to write, write.

That’s it. Do it. You can always learn more. You can always correct what’s wrong. You can always look up facts. Yet if you only try to memorize rules but don’t try out those rules in the world of writing, you miss the point of the rules entirely.

Yes, punctuation and grammar and convention are important. Yes, you need to know how to work with your tools. But you’ve got to work with those tools. You’ve got to put them in your hands and see what you can do with them.

Throw some words around. Like how they look, how they sound, the way they make you feel? Write some more in the same vein.

Don’t like how they came out? Then start again.

Painters paint. They learn about light and pigment and strokes and brushes, but they also get their hands dirty. They see what they can do.

Writers need to do that as well. And this is your reminder—a reminder for myself too—to not only learn about writing. But to write. To mess around. To get your hands dirty.

Let’s see what creative messes and what messy creations we can come up with.

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*The apostrophe in a non-noun plural
Some say you can never use an apostrophe for plurals, but then those same people go on to use them for dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

Punctuation is used for clarity. I chose the apostrophe for how-to’s on purpose, so readers wouldn’t stumble over the meaning if they saw how-tos. Most readers will read how-to’s as I intended it. Reading how-tos? They’re liable to have to reread several times. This is the same reasoning for writing do’s and don’ts.

Did I have other choices? Sure. I could have put how-tos in quotation marks (“how-tos”) or I could have rewritten the sentence.

I chose, instead, a way that would highlight the flexibility of the English language.

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