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Take the experts' advice with a heap of salt

Like most of you reading this, I read a lot, both for my "real" job and in preparation for bewitching an agent with my first completed MS. Nothing is off limits, meaning I devour blogs, magazines, newspapers (yes, in hard copy), tweets, recipes, nutrition labels, and of course, books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Lately I've noticed an increase in the "dos and don'ts" category of blogs for writers, and as an avid consumer of books, I have to say much of that advice is poppycock.

Here are some of my favorite pieces of writing advice that have no basis in reality:

1. Steer clear of Latinate

Let me get this straight. I shouldn't use words like ascended, encountered, contemplated, or physique? Guess someone should’ve told the author of the Apostles’ Creed, because this sounds so much better...on the third day He rose again from the dead, and went to heaven. Sometimes you need Latinate.

2. Never use exclamation points

After reading that advice from a so-called writing expert, I removed the handful of exclamation points from an early draft of my MS. I picked up a copy of Janet Evanovich’s latest Stephanie Plum novel and, lo and behold (oops, Latinate), found an exclamation point (gasp) in the story. It worked and it wasn’t distracting. If she can use it, why can’t we?

3. Don’t use “fancy” words

This advice sounds like something out of a bad western movie. “Hey missy, you usin’ them fancy words again?” The reality is good authors know when a “fancy” word works and they use it. I had to consult a dictionary when I read the word cicatrix in a best-seller, and I enjoyed learning a new word.

Elevating form over substance isn’t a panacea for every author (how many “rules” did I violate in this sentence?). Write your story. If the word fits, in the book it sits!