Top Ten “Rules” of Writing

  1. Write what you have to, not what you think you should because it will be popular, or will sell, or will win awards, or will make you look smart or otherwise good. You don’t choose your story. Your story chooses you.
  2. The most important thing is to tell the truth, even when you’re making things up. If you have to choose between artistry and the truth, choose the truth. And don’t let your internal censor limit you before you’ve had a chance to understand what you think and what you have to say.
  3. Enjoy the act of writing. It’s the most important part. It’s the only part you are responsible for. Everything that comes – or doesn’t come – afterwards is out of your control. Don’t confuse writing with being read. Or being liked.
  4. Don’t worry about your style. Worry about your character. And your characters. Character trumps language which trumps plot.
  5. Make it interesting. No matter how literary the novel, don’t forget to include something of mystery. We are drawn to mysteries because life – and each of us – is inherently mysterious. Who are we? What are we thinking? What do we do next? What happens next? Why?
  6. Don’t fret about the first draft. Get it out of your head and into the world. If you’re stuck on something – a word, a line, a paragraph, a chapter, a character, a plot point – and it’s impeding your progress, go on to something else in your piece of writing and come back to that particular point later. Don’t be the novelist who never writes your book because you can’t figure out what happens after the first line.
  7. Write early in the morning when there are no distractions and your brain hasn’t been polluted with the 1001 stresses that make up a modern life. Or late at night when you’ve put all these stresses behind you. Bottomline: choose a time that works for you when you can put everything else aside.
  8. Expect absolutely nothing to change in the world around you after you have written something. Except yourself. If you do your best, that is always good enough.
  9. Don’t forget that what you are creating on the pages is as real, if not more so, then the rest of the world around you.
  10. Writing is the affirmation of the individual consciousness and the sanctity and worth of the individual. Literature reminds us that human beings are not a means to an end, whether that end is a five-year plan or corporate profits or a strong economy or geopolitical dominance, but an end in themselves.
  11. There are no rules.

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