I read an article online the other day where Elmore Leonard and a number of other published writers listed their ten rules for writing fiction. Here’s the link, if you are interested: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one
The article inspired me to come up with some rules of my own. Here they are. After you read them, feel free to chime in with your own.
1. Writing is not for sissies. (Yes, I know. I've said this before. But I think it bears repeating.) It is for stubborn, tough people who have a passion for the written word and who will not be ground down by the system or The Man . . . or . . er. . Woman, as the case may be.
2. Most writers are a little crazy and way insecure. And yet we bare ourselves to the world in the most fundamental and personal way. And that brings me full circle to the first statement. Most writers are a little crazy. You have to be crazy or masochistic to be a writer. Why else would you put yourself through this?
3. Set yourself a goal: 500 words a day, a chapter a week, 10,000 words a month. You won’t always reach it, but the guilt will get you back in the chair. Write something, somehow, whether it’s revision or plotting or blogging. Immerse yourself in the words and in the process.
4. When you are working on a new story, you know you’re on the right track when you hear your characters talking in your head. (See Rule Number Two about the crazies. In other realities, hearing voices is called schizophrenia).
5. Join a writer’s group. Other writers make a great support group. And it's nice to have friends that share and understand your insanity.
6. When you get rejected by an agent or lose a contest, allow yourself one day to sulk and sing the “I Suck” song and then plop yourself back down in front of the computer. (See Rule Number Three. The difference between a writer and a published writer is the published writer did not quit. Yes, Louisa, I am quoting you.)
7. Write what you know. I used to think, ‘What does that mean? Do I have to write about law because I’m a lawyer? I hate law! I don’t want to write about it.’ But I don’t think it means that. I write about small towns, not big cities, because that’s what I know.
8. Scrape up the money somehow, somewhere to go to conferences. It will give you the chance to pitch to agents in person (waaaay better than the dreaded query letter), they offer great workshops on writing – always a plus – and conferences are a great place to network and make new friends. Crazy new friends who are writers.
9. Avoid workshops and books that give you a formula on how to write a book, unless you already write by formula. Pantsers, I am talking to you! No formula works for every writer, and it will seriously freak you out and harsh your mellow if you are deep in the throes of writing a manuscript and you don’t write like the person who wrote the book, or the writers conducting the workshop. Happened to me, and I nearly had a nervous breakdown.
10. There is no right or wrong way to write, no easy answers. Sure, there are accepted rules of good writing. (Avoid the overuse of adjectives and adverbs, don’t use verbs other than ‘said’ in dialogue tags, she ejaculated! and use exclamation points sparingly, to name a few). But each of us approaches the craft differently. What works for one may not work for another. Some of us are plotters, some pantsers chasing after that drunken squirrel, but we are all writers. (Can't forget the squirrel, Mary!)
And ain’t that just the pip? I think so. Vive la difference!