Make Your Own (Writing) Rules

AntiqueKeyThe other day I posted a link to a site called Literary Rejections with a list of author’s 10 Rules of Writing (Henry Miller and A.L. Kennedy were probably my favorites).  I decided to create my own, as I said I would, and after some editing rounded out the number to 20.  I’m putting this out into the world in the hopes that it will not only help me, but other writers.

I’m on the email lists of various writing sites and I get so inundated with information that some days I feel like hitting the spam button and never looking at their “helpful advice” again.  There are so many people telling you what you should and shouldn’t do and sometimes they’re contradictory…so what is one to do?

Make your own rules!

Now obviously, there are some rules of writing that can’t be changed.  Screenwriting has a very specific structure, I can’t change that, but my writing style, etc. is left up to me.  We all know the conditions we like to write in and when, but like my To Do List posted on the wall, sometimes it helps to see those guidelines visually.  We might accomplish more when there’s a physical reminder staring at us.  So here are mine –

  1. Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.
  2. Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy, the work is always accomplished one word at a time.
  3. Hold the reader’s attention.
  4. Write whatever way you like. Fiction is made of words on a page; reality is made of something else. It doesn’t matter how “real” your story is, or how “made up”: what matters is its necessity.
  5. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  6. Work according to the program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  7.  When you can’t create you can work.
  8. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  9. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
  10. Forget the books (screenplays) you want to write. Think only of the book (screenplay) you are writing.
  11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
  12. Write a book (movie you’d like to see) you’d like to read. Don’t write for a perceived audience or market. It may well have vanished by the time your book’s (screenplay’s) ready.
  13. Be ready for anything. Each new story has different demands and may throw up reasons to break these and all other rules.
  14. The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.
  15. You see more sitting still than chasing after.
  16. You don’t know the limits of your own abilities. If you keep pushing beyond yourself, you will enrich your own life.
  17. Defend your work. Individuals will often think they know best about your work. When you genuinely believe their decisions would damage your work – walk away.
  18. Defend yourself. Find out what keeps you happy, motivated and creative.
  19. Remember you love writing. It wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back.
  20.  Use the right word, not its second cousin.

I encourage you all to make your own list, and as always Best of Luck!


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