How not to write.

March 23, 2010

Again and again I see writer’s guides or tips on writing and a lot of them seem to give the same advice. They tell you what NOT to do. “This word is overused, don’t use it.” “This style is boring, don’t write that way” etc, they give you more road blocks to dodge in a process littered with obstacles as it is.

What in the world do they mean “You can’t use that word”? Every word has a usage and a place in writing, don’t tell us we can’t use them. Using a word in the wrong way should, absolutely, be corrected, but saying it should be removed altogether, either because it’s often used wrong or used too much, is simply ridiculous.

As for avoiding particular styles; many times I’ve seen articles that say not to let your sentences drag on for too long, but isn’t that a matter of opinion? Some of us like long flowing sentences, if done right, others like them short and concise, but isn’t that the point of it all? If you like wordy styles, then you find a writer who writes that way, if you like it simple, you find someone whose style fits your needs. It’s art, no style is wrong, it’s personal preference.

Now I’m going to get controversial for some. I’m going to disagree with Stephen King, or at least something he said.

I was reading his book “Stephen King on Writing” and a lot of what he said I agreed with. One point I remember him making, was that a writer should find their own vocabulary and use it, rather than attempt to use words they are unfamiliar with. This was great advice, as it gives all writers confidence in their words, no matter how simple those words may be.

However, there was something he said that I did not agree with, and that was the point about active and passive verbs.

He explained active and passive verbs thus, “With an active verb, the subject of the sentence is doing something. With a passive verb, something is being done to the subject of the sentence.”

He then said that the passive style was used by the timid or unsure writer, or in other words, if you write that way you have no confidence in your voice. As I read this I started to agree with him, but then I read some of the examples of, bad passive, and good active and I could see intriguing writing in both. In fact, I liked the passive better, and I started to think that this wasn’t advice at all, this was someone saying, “I don’t like this kind of style, please stop using it.”, which shouldn’t be in a guide to writing in the first place. Unless it’s made clear that this is an opinion not a rule.

He does begin this point with “I have my own dislikes” implying that this is only his opinion and not a writing rule. However, he goes on to make his case so forcefully, and in such a way, that you forget the set up, and some will take it as a rule, becoming doubly uncertain of their voice.

What I’m really getting at is… Stop telling writers what they can’t do, because all it really accomplishes is making writers too scared to sit down and write. Saying a style, or word, should be avoided because it’s not what YOU like, is simply bad comprehension of what art is.

To put my point in Stephen King’s own words “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing”. I agree with this wholeheartedly, but he said it as he put even more fear and uncertainty into the writer who was reading his words.

Sorry for the rant, but I have seen good writers become crippled because they tried to follow all those sorts of rules. It didn’t make them better writers; they just ended up thinking their work was never good enough and questioning every word they put on the page.



March 22, 2010

An old black and white I did of a fantasy dwarf warrior. I wish I had dated it so I could tell you when I did it, but I’m the kind of artist that just sketches and doodles endlessly and never remembers to make note of when I do so.

Elf Lass

March 17, 2010

I thought I’d post something with a little green in it for St. Patrick’s Day. Not anything particular, just a sketch of an elf lass with green hair that I did back in 2006.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Just a sketch of a Celtic warrior woman I did as a sort of face study. She is actually a character from one of my stories that ended up being put on the backburner, and has remained there for a long while now.

An artist’s condition

March 8, 2010

It’s an odd condition, the condition of the artist.

Most are recluses (myself included) and do their best to avoid contact with the world as much as is achievable. However, the whole idea of art is to communicate a feeling or message, a message from someone who avoids communication altogether, and more often than not the message conveyed is one of genuine significance to the artist. So it makes me think that artists aren’t recluses at all, they exhibit who they are more in one paragraph or painting than most people of the world do in a dozen trivial conversations.

Artists want to show who they are, why would they write or paint for the world if they didn’t? But they want to find the right way of saying it, they don’t want to be misconstrued as something they’re not. I think what it really is, is the artist has something to say and, whatever it is, cannot be said in passing or as an offhand remark, because whatever it is holds so much meaning to the artist that they feel it deserves a canvas or a page to call its own.

But that’s just a patient’s take on her own condition.

Cafe girl 3

March 5, 2010

Here’s another Café Girl. I quite like the shape and style of the hat on this one.

Dragon & Wizard

March 1, 2010

Here is the full picture of the dragon sketch, where you can now see his wizard travel companion. She was really just put in there for a size comparison but I tried to give her her own little personality. You can kind of see her holding her head up high, as I imagined she would be rather confidant with him as an ally.