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Here is the second installment of my mis-quotes and rules for writers. The exact wording I use may be original, but the basis is old. My source for all of these is Susan Bell.

Remember, the most you can say about how the authoritative a writing rules is:

They probably have occasionally helped their author’s writing.

Many, probably most, good and great writers have shared thoughts on how they write or on rules they follow in their own writing. Nearly all of them would agree that there is probably only one rule in writing—be entertaining. And even that doesn’t apply to writing for one’s own understanding, catharsis or sanity.

The quips in this group express the Susan Bell’s attitude, at least at the time she wrote these. Some of these are not exact quotes so I hope Ms. Bell is not offended by my paraphrasing. Whether they are helpful for you depends on many factors.

Writing Quips and Paraphrasings

Source

Every writer has to discover his best protection from a rapacious internal judge.

Bell, Susan

Genres, like rules, are for breaking.

Bell, Susan

If you cannot say clearly what you mean, you are not clear about your meaning. Clear thinking makes for clear writing.

Bell, Susan

If you want to write a freewheeling, unstructured stream of consciousness, okay, but beware: your language will have to be brilliantly muscular and locomotive to create the tension and propulsion necessary to move a reader forward—a tension and propulsion normally created from plot as much as words.

Bell, Susan

Imprecision in literary matters dulls or befuddles the reader.

Bell, Susan

In the edit Fitzgerald realized that a person (like Gatsby) who talks is more exposed than one who is talked about.

Bell, Susan

It is a common error to think editing simply means to replace poorly written phrases with new, better-turned ones. Editing can, and often will, mean to rethink a character, research her further until your understanding, not just your language, is new.

Bell, Susan

Many writers do not find the first sentence for their book until they edit, because only then, on reading their draft, do they discover that the beginning is hiding on page 3 or 4.

Bell, Susan

The micro-edit [sentence-level and finer] is the once-over you give your text much more than once. You will likely encounter a greater number of errors than in the macro-edit (level of character and plot), but they are often simpler to solve than macro-problems.

Bell, Susan

What a fine beginning never does is succumb to verbal litter.

Bell, Susan

Writing teachers like to say a story is in the details. But it is not only in the details revealed, but in those left unsaid that we learn about a person.

Bell, Susan

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