The Aberrant Manifesto

or, Seven Commandments That Will Make You A Better Artist and Liked More In General



It’s tough to be an artist.  The agonizing over details, the creative droughts, the surprising lack of fancy dress scarves; it’s as if the world is working against us.  But perhaps worst of all is the big R: Rejection.  Sure, we cannot guarantee a checklist that will get you published, but we can guarantee that the things we’re putting here are annoying and should be absent from any good writing.  This is not foolproof (as it was written by five fools), but it is seven more things to keep in mind that will help you be a better artist, in our humble and completely right opinion.

1. THOU SHALT NOT REFERENCE WITHOUT REASON.

We get it. You’re smart, you’re well-read, you’ve researched names and dates extensively. There’s no reason to prove it to anonymous readers unless it directly affects the meaning of your art. If your characters discuss Proust, it had better be extremely important to your message. Here’s a tip: if your reference can either be removed or replaced with a reference to Sesame Street, and it doesn’t affect the overarching message you’re trying to get across, lose the reference.

2. THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT IMPROPER USE OF PUNCTUATION.

We understand that you don’t get how to use punctuation. However, you’re ignorance is a crime and our punishment is death. Your submission will be crumpled, chewed, spat out and the remains tread upon. Deal with it. It’s what you deserve. We don’t want to choke on misplaced commas or gasp for air after the lack of them. When you finish a complete thought end it properly.  If you don’t understand how to use a semicolon then don’t use it. We own a crossbow and we’re not afraid to use it.

3. THOU SHALL NOT USE THE INCORRECT WORD.

Make sure the word you use really means what you think it means.  Sometimes it happens on accident.  Maybe you wanted to write about how your character is lying prostrate on the ground, but put prostate instead.  Let me tell you something, these are not the same thing, beyond the fact that one is an adjective and the other is a noun.  And spell check won’t help you here.
Sometimes it happens from placing too much trust in a thesaurus.  Eloquent is not a snazzier version of elegant, so don’t start writing about eloquent dresses.  If you’re going to use a suggestion from a thesaurus, you better look it up before actually replacing a word.
Sometimes it happens when you’re trying to spice up your work with some SAT vocabulary.  Don’t drop 25-cent words just because you think they’ll make you sound cooler, because chances are pretty good they won’t.  This is a recipe for using words improperly or in the wrong place.  Don’t say “the dichotomy between the smell of the coffee and its color was fantastic,” because that’s not fantastic.  Don’t say “she was so quixotic she decided not to do her homework that day,” or “the sunrise was phantasmagoric,” or “she had an epiphany about what she should get her dad for Christmas.” It won’t make us think you’re smarter. Quite the opposite, actually.

4. THOU SHALT NOT USE IRONY IN VAIN.

Everyone loves the unexpected twist at the end of a story. Remember The Sixth Sense? Remember how good it was? When well executed, sarcasm and irony are also appreciated. Remember A Modest Proposal? It led a revolution! And I dare the above editor to say that my references aren’t necessary, because they are. Just like it’s necessary for any hopeful authors to know that if you fail to effectively execute either of these methods, you will end up like all the other submissions we received: unpublished. With that said, be effortless with your wit. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the best sarcasm and twists often naturally create themselves.

5. THOU SHALT NOT WRITE WITHOUT MOVEMENT.

Most likely, you’re not going to write the next Waiting for Godot, and you’re not Tristram Shandy, so writing without any form of movement makes your more Sisyphean than scintillating. That’s not to say that a story has to be plot driven, or that the plot needs to be evident at all, but there must be action in your art. Something has to propel us forward in our reading, rather than making us tread water for fun and sport. Give us something to hang onto, something that we will want to pursue in your art and make us continue on with your vision. Stagnancy kills, so keep it moving.

6. THOU SHALT NOT BE INCONSISTENT.

It’s painful for a reader to try and intellectualize an ending that is incongruous with the rest of the story.  Twist endings are perfectly fine, but keep it consistent with the style and message.  Your art should be unified in its message, not rambling and unspecific in its thesis.  If a single section of your art feels off, it can throw the entire message into a tailspin.  Make sure it feels like there’s a unifying vision or voice.  Which, coincidentally, leads us to our final commandment.

7. THOU SHALT NOT LET MULTIPLE PEOPLE WRITE THE SAME MANIFESTO.

Seriously, it’s just… not a great idea.

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