Disclaimer: I am completely unqualified to write this. Under my own name, I’ve written one flash fiction and one novel (that isn’t even out yet). That being said, here are my own ten rules for writing (plus one bonus rule).
- Your first draft is never good. “But, what if—?” No, it’s not. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to edit.
- For every writing “rule” that’s been concocted, there is a successful author who violated it. This does not mean that author is you, and you would do well to heed those rules anyway.
- The value of words is extrinsic. Unless they tell an interesting story or make a good point, no one will care.
- Write the genres and subjects you enjoy reading, because a lot of the time you will be the only audience to your work. Also, if you don’t enjoy what you’re writing, odds are that will show through—there’s nothing worse than an author who doesn’t like their own story.
- Throw out all misconceptions about believability. The most believable tale in the world is your main character living a perfectly normal life, where nothing ever happens. Throw in something completely unlikely, make your story one worth telling.
- The maxim show don’t tell will be thrown around, more often than any other phrase. The meaning varies from person to person, but what it really means is “I noticed your narration”. Narration should be like an invisible friend, guiding your reader through the story but never intruding upon the story itself.
- Don’t start editing before you finish. In my experience, this is the easiest way to kill creativity.
- Take as long as you need to say what you need to say, and finish. Every single reader in the world can recognize fluff, and most of them don’t like it.
- Overarching details like themes are best left for later. They will find their way into the story if you try to write a true tale, but if you attempt to write one with a theme in mind it becomes about ten times more difficult. Unless you’re Ayn Rand and the theme is the main purpose of your story.
- Everything—and I mean everything—must have a reason to exist. Your book should tell a discernible story, your chapters should move that story along, and even your sentences should aid the scene.
Bonus: Likeability is important. If you have only one viewpoint character, he/she ought to be someone the audience can get behind. If you have multiple, choose at least one with defensible motives. The flipside of this is, do not make him/her a paragon. All characters in real life have flaws, so yours should too.
Agree? Disagree? Think I’m an idiot who has it all wrong? Let me know in the comments below!