I found it was hard to come up with a comprehensive list of rules for writers. Mainly because this whole blog is that, and I don’t just want to sit here repeating myself. But also because something like writing is hard to sum up. Everyone has a different process, their own muse, their own favorite time to write, etc. That being said, I did take a crack at it. You will see some repetition; that was unavoidable. That’s why certain things on the list will have links in them – they’ll just lead to the posts where I talked in more detail about that particular item. Soooo…here goes with the list.
1. You never know nearly as much as you think you do – This is not as depressing as it sounds. If you have read the beginning of my blog, and I’m talking about the first ten posts or so, you will notice that I was an idiot back then. Did you see the kinds of advice I gave? Did you see the apologies I had to issue for that advice? Writing means, among other things, constantly learning. You will never be done learning. It is ongoing. And that is good. Constant improvement. It’s not something you have to strive for; it just happens. The more you write, the more you learn.
2. Go with your gut – I cannot count how many times I have brought this up in this blog. But I figure there’s a reason for it. I really do believe that your gut instinct as a writer is your greatest resource.
If your are reading a sentence, and that sentence simply doesn’t feel right, then there is a good chance you need to reword it. If a character does not feel believable to you, then maybe you need to think about why that is.
3. Read – This should be obvious, but I want to restate it here. You cannot be a good writer if you do not first have a basic grasp of what good writing is. Now I am not saying that all published books are good. *cough* Twilight *cough* But the point is that you should be able to weed out which books are and aren’t good if you read enough. And it’s not enough to say “I don’t like this book” and then throw it into the trash. You have to be able to identify why you don’t like it. It’s the same if you like a book. Why? What are the best aspects of your favorite author’s writing? Being able to identify you reasons for liking or disliking some piece of writing will help you grow as a writer.
4. Nothing is anything until it is something – I started saying this to my friends and family the moment the possibility of me getting an agent arose. It’s true in the book business, but probably in most of the entertainment industry and just the business world in general. It’s my own variation on “Don’t count your chickens until they hatch” I guess. But it applies to more than just signing with an agent and chewing your nails down to stubs while you wait anxiously to see if your book will actually get published or if the Rejection Amoeba will shoot you down. It’s about writing at its core. You have to actually write something for it to be something. An idea is just an idea. Words on a page are a thing. You can change, edit, delete, whatever, but none of that is possible without taking the first step. Embark on the journey. There’s no risk, except maybe carpal tunnel.
5. Read it out loud – You should be prepared to read your whole book out loud, though special attention should be given to the dialogue. You will be able to tell if your writing sounds genuine pretty easily if you feel comfortable saying the words you wrote out loud. If you don’t, maybe you need to rework it a bit. This works really well with dialogue because that is the part we are most used to delivering through speech, so if something you wrote as speech doesn’t sound normal to your ears, then you know it’s probably not believable in writing.
6. Show Don’t Tell – This is a classic. And I know I’ve talked about it at least twice before, but I only remember one post where I talked about it extensively, so that’s the one I’m going to link to. Other than that, I have nothing to say besides please please please follow this rule. I know Telling can be a style choice, but it’s very hard to do that well if you’re not already a skilled writer.
7. Challenge Yourself – One of my favorite posts on this blog is the one titled “They Say.” I had a lot of fun writing it, and it expressed one of my biggest beliefs about writing – that you don’t have to limit yourself. If you feel most comfortable writing short stories, maybe the challenge is to write a novel. If you write mainly Fiction, maybe the challenge is to try some Nonfiction. It might be terrible. At least on your first attempt (I know my first attempts at Realistic Fiction were all just…awful.) But it’s a learning experience, and one that I think is really crucial to the growth of a writer. If you are constantly pushing your limits, you not only learn new things about yourself, but you learn new things about writing, and what it means to you. So find a challenge, give yourself an assignment, Google “writing exercises,” ask a friend for a list of words that must be included in a story (see below the Word of the Day), and just get to it.
I think that’s it. I don’t know if that advice was so much about writing. It may have been more about being a writer. But I think that kind of advice is just as valid. So here’s a comic (click to enlarge) and Word of the Day. Don’t forget to keep scrolling down for my Writing Challenge!
Word of the Day: Crucial (adj) – involving an extremely important decision or result; decisive; critical.
Bex’s Writing Challenge!
In order to do my part to encourage you to challenge yourself, I have decided to offer a small writing assignment for all interested parties. As I said above, a great writing challenge is to take a random list of words and incorporate them into a story. Ever heard of Flash Fiction? It’s a really, really short piece of fiction that usually ranges from about 200 to 500 words. My challenge to you is to take the list of words below and use them in a piece of Flash Fiction. Then, if you so desire, post that story in the comments section. I will read and offer my comments to all those who choose to take part. (Don’t worry. I’ll be nice. And this is an optional thing, obviously. I’m not going to find where you live and threaten you until you write short fiction for my amusement).
So here’s your list:
I will probably take up the challenge myself and post my story for all to see. Until then, Happy Writing!