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Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com • Can you only learn how NOT to write? : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com
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Can you only learn how NOT to write?

PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2015 9:12 pm
by DrG2
I come from a background doing science, and while science is often represented as "the truth," it really operates by disproving what is not true, and making a working hypothesis from that which has not yet been disproved.

I wonder if an aspiring writer can only learn what not to do (grammar, show don't tell, etc.). There is no guarantee that after we stop doing the "bad things" that what is left will be effective. I think everyone with a modestly above average intelligence can write well enough to not be horrid, but will this be good enough?

Michelangelo suggested that what he did when he sculpted was to remove stone to reveal what was always there, beneath the surface.

If we knock off all the "bad bits," will there be a beautiful statue (or writer) beneath the surface?

Re: Can you only learn how NOT to write?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 10:10 am
by James A. Ritchie

Re: Can you only learn how NOT to write?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 11:57 pm
by DrG2

Re: Can you only learn how NOT to write?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 10:02 am
by Carly Berg
I think if we knock away all the bad bits, that's no guarantee that what's left will be very interesting. I've read so many stories that were "okay" but that's all. Like there wouldn't be any big reason not to publish them but there also wouldn't be any big reason to publish them, either. I find it a lot easier to say what not to do than what to do, though.

Re: Can you only learn how NOT to write?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 10:55 am
by James A. Ritchie

Re: Can you only learn how NOT to write?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 1:07 pm
by updog

Re: Can you only learn how NOT to write?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 6:24 pm
by Crono91
I've always learned more by figuring out what to do, rather than what not to do.

I love reading novels for fun, but I also read them as a way to study. I'm always analyzing how an author punctuated a certain sentence, or how the author developed a character, or how and when they developed a friendship/relationship. I ponder what I liked and what I didn't like. What would mesh with my writing style and what wouldn't.

I can list many things an author can and should do right by memory, but I can't do the same for what one shouldn't do.

Granted, every rule is both positive and negative based on perception.

"Show; don't tell." Half of that statement is positive--what to do--and half of that statement is negative--what not to do.

Re: Can you only learn how NOT to write?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 7:28 pm
by updog

Re: Can you only learn how NOT to write?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 10:46 pm
by DrG2

Re: Can you only learn how NOT to write?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 11:04 pm
by onceuponwednesday
Writing a story is kinda like building a house but one that you're not quite sure what it looks like. At least for me. Editing on the other hand is more like DrG mentioned, carving an image out of a giant block of words.

I think it's very hard to write in a clean way that doesn't get in the way of the story and yet still manages to convey the emotions and images to the reader. I wouldn't want a reader to even notice the words or how beautifully the sentences were constructed. I wouldn't want to give Crono the chance to analyze the punctuation or the growth of relationships, just pull him by the nose on the journey with the characters.

Intelligent and capable adult mentors tend to be killed off by the end of the book.