Mar 12


1.  Respect your audience enough to get the basics right; spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

2.  We don’t have to love or even like your main character but we better find him/her arresting and utterly fascinating or we won’t love your work well enough to finish it.

3.  Your main character shouldn’t be a victim, a whoosie, or a wimp to whom things just happen.  He or she must be a person who makes choices and takes actions even if he/she doesn’t want to.

4.  You can only have one main character – even in an ensemble piece.  Romeo and Juliet is really Romeo’s story; he crashes the party in the beginning, he falls in love with Juliet, he marries Juliet, he kills Tybalt (Juliet’s cousin) and he fakes his own death without telling Juliet.  Everything in the story happens because of actions he takes.

5.  Perfect characters are perfectly boring.  Give them all faults and flaws.

6.  Imitation in writing is the greatest form of stupidity.  Don’t try to write like someone else – that’s already been done better by the original author.  If you’re favorite writer is Homer, Hugo, Hawthorn, or Hemingway, remember their audiences are long dead and buy very few books these days.  (What English lit teachers and professors buy of these works wouldn’t keep these writers alive today on the profits.)  Write for today’s audience.  Speak to your own time just as these writers did in their days.  It’s okay to be inspired but write in your own voice and your own style.

7. Don’t write what you think people want to read, write what you want to read.  If you wouldn’t read it, why in the hell would anyone else?

8. If you want to make a living as a writer work at it like a job: regular hours, regular output; finish what you start.

9.  Don’t talk about your work to anyone and don’t show it to anyone until it’s complete.  You are very vulnerable and so is your work until it is finished.  Protect it and yourself.  Shut the hell up and write.

10.  Description works best when it’s part of the action.  When you stop to describe a place or person the story stops, too.

11.  Don’t let anything stop you.  Until you get to THE END you have less than nothing.  Once it’s finished you can always rewrite it – fix it.  No one will read it until it’s finished.  If you get stuck, type dashes across the page and write “Somehow they get out of this and get to the next scene, act, or chapter.”  Later on it will come to you how they get out and you can go back and write it then.

12.  Quality is the job of the rewrite not of the first draft.  The job of the first draft is quantity.  Write three to twenty pages or more a day, every day, six days a week until you get to THE END.

13.  During your daily writing period, only pause to eat, drink, use the bathroom, and have sex.  Otherwise, write.

14.  The parts you tend to skip over when you’re rereading your work are the bad or dull parts.  If you won’t read them neither will anyone else.  Fix them.

15.  Rules are not written in stone; they’re not commandments or laws; but if you break them, do it for a damn good reason.

16.  Anybody who has written down rules for writing has broken all of them.

17.  Don’t start on something new until you’ve finished what you’re working on right now.

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