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Monday, August 1, 2011

My Rules for Fiction Writing

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Since people began writing fiction (and writing about writing fiction), commentators have been creating rules about writing.

Ms. Grundy back in high school probably taught you some of those rules, such as "Never start a sentence with And or But" or "Don't use apostrophes." (Gotta love that one!) The more you read, the more you discovered that professional writers seldom listen to Ms. Grundy.

So, with apologies to Ms. Grundy and all the writers who have gone before, here is my current, up-to-the-minute list of rules for writing fiction, presented late-night-talk-show-style in reverse order:

10. If it reads like a writer’s exercise, trash it and start over.

9. “All good writing is rewriting.” – E.M. Forster

8. Do NOT read your reviews – at least not ever on a day when you plan to write.

7. Do not write in public. Writing, like certain other very personal activities, should only be done in private.

6. If you have reached the half-way point in your novel, and you aren’t yet dreaming about your characters, something is wrong. Fix it.

5. If you can’t reread your work because it’s boring, you were never meant to be a writer in the first place.

4. Share your work in progress with friends and family. Then share it with people who love good writing enough to be honest about where your work goes wrong.

3. Find a reader, not related to you, who loves everything you write. Save this person’s comments for the days when you foolishly read your reviews.

2. Examine the deep, unanswerable questions of life in your writing. Then set your work aside for your personal enjoyment and write something others will read.

1. Forget the rules. If it feels right, write it.

Do you have any rules to share? Please do.


  1. One rule I try to follow ( and I say try) is--Don't edit your WIP before you finish writing it. I read a couple of chapters before I pick up where I left off just to refresh my memory. But I need to get through the whole thing and make sure I have enough material to actually write a whole novel before I freak out about the editing.

    Love your other rules.

  2. Thank you for #1. When writing and breaking a rule, I just get irritated that "they" say I can't write what comes out. It just has to feel right.


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