#NaNoWriMo: Rules of Three (Dirty Trick #2)

Okay, I lied; here’s a quick for-reals post.

File this one in there with the no-adverbs post — stuff you can do that will make your draft a little bit stronger and reduce the amount of pain you have to go through on revisions: Rules of Three.

Rules of three are pretty good — a hard limit that you’re not supposed to exceed when you’re writing. Let’s lay some out:

  • Only three facts in any description. This is another Zelazny tip that I find wonderfully straightforward to implement. When you’re describing something (a person, a thing, a place, whatever), you only get to mention three facts. The reasoning is that the reader is only going to remember three facts anyway, so you’re better off dictating what those three things are rather than letting them cherry-pick from a two-page description of your protag’s love interest (pro-tip: I don’t give a fuck about the brand of their clothes). You can cheat and add extra bits as the story progresses.
  • Only three uses of the same joke. Seriously, it’s not funny after that.
  • Only three uses of the same anything. Be it a particular application of a superpower, vampire hypnosis, a dance move… whatever. Three.
  • Only three adverbs per story. Might as well put a hard limit on the little fuckers.
  • Only three exclamations points per story. Actually, “one per 50,000 words” is better, but you can have more in your first draft. EVERY SINGLE ONE must be in dialog, though. Don’t make me get the hose.
  • Only three ellipses per story. That might be harsh. Maybe Three-per-25k words, but you can’t end ANY PARAGRAPH with them.
  • Only three ‘nods’ per… chapter? You (and by that, I mean ‘I’) should do even better than that, but it’s a first draft.
  • Only three ‘shrugs’ per… aww, hell. Just try to control it.

Anyone else have some particular story element or vocabulary element that you find you have to control? Please, do share.

If not,  get back to work.

Have fun.

14 Replies to “#NaNoWriMo: Rules of Three (Dirty Trick #2)”

  1. Credit for this post idea goes to De and Chuck, who were talking about stuff on Twitter that led me to thinking about this.

  2. Three shrugs a story? Oh hell no.

    Last revision I did of the book I just sent off, I think I was averaging something like a shrug every five pages for the length of the book, before edits.

    Maybe “three shrugs a chapter.”

  3. My characters sigh, look, and shrug a lot. One book’s draft one had so many sighs, one critique partner said she felt like she was hyperventilating. That…uh, was bad.

    Oh, and in the book I’m writing now, in the dialogue, no one finishes a complete sentence. I have a LOT of dashes in this version. They might not stay… don’t know.

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