Rules for Writing – Take it all with a Grain of Salt

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I am constantly chewing up and spitting out the so-called rules for writing fiction.
Best to go on record here – I despise conformity.  I despise commerciality.  If one sets his mind to creating anything for the sake of making money, I hope to god he confines himself to the world of fast food, manufacturing, software development etc.  The world of art, in its purest form, should be reserved for artists.  If one were to try to create art for the sake of commerce, one is likely not to make either money or art.

That is not to say that an artist, in this case writers, cannot and should not learn something of the skill set which will allow their work to be enjoyed by and consumed by a vast audience – just as long as they are not prostituting themselves or their vision to a higher (or lower) authority that demands they follow a set structure.  So I strive to bend the rules or better yet see them as a loose set of guidelines or suggestions.

I stumbled upon a list of RULES – a page containing quotes by famous writers.  I am going to compile, dissect and cast off what I figure to be pure nonsense and come up with my own RULES.  Take ´em or leave  ´em.
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1.  The first draft of everything is shit. -Ernest Hemingway
Agreed.  There is a good chance that a lot of what you have written will be garbage and will need rewriting.

  1. If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. – Dorothy Parker
    Agreed. I am slowly working through The Elements of Style.  The bible for writers.  Of course, there are still some RULES within it that can be bent over backwards or broken but at least you will have more than an opinion to base your work on.
  2. You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.― Jack London
    Part of being a writer is seeing the drama and possibilities in everyday situations.  One can develop that skill – but without it your well will soon run dry.
  3. There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. 
    W. Somerset Maugham.  Agreed.  Like music, the rules are only a bunch of suggestions.  We should understand that  by RULE we mean ¨This has worked for me.¨
  4. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that .– Stephen King. 
    I don´t know if reading every day of your life is crucial to writing.  I have passed my ´Reading´ phase and am now in my ´Writing´ phase.  Of course, I have read thousands of books in my life.  It is essential to read, I just don´t know if I agree it must happen simultaneously with writing.
  5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.– Neil Gaiman
    This may be true – but the key point here is that something that doesn´t work for one reader may be fine for another.  In the end, we have to admit that nothing we do or write will please 100% of our audience.  The ´FIX´ however will be up to us.
  6.  Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die. – Anne Enright
    Agreed.  I wrote my last book shortly after being diagnosed with Cancer.  Write everyday like it is your last. 
  7. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration. – Ernest Hemingway
    Agreed.  The fluffy descriptions don´t fit in today´s world of Netflix, Youtube, Internet etc.  It´s not necessary and distracts from the story.
  8. Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Have the courage to write badly.– Joshua Wolf Shenk
    I struggle with this but AGREE.  It is a fact (especially taking into point 1) that the story must reveal itself.  That is done by getting it done.
  9. Write what you know.
    In a large part I agree with this. That is not to say that one cannot write a novel about Horses even if they have never ridden.  But you must make the story your own, from your particular slant – putting yourself into the story.  There are better writers out there, people with much vaster life experience but there is only one YOU.
  10. Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.– Lev Grossman
    It appears that the one thing writers like to do more than writing, is give advice on how it should be done. The planners swear that planning a novel is the best method – the seat of the pants crowd shun those that plan – some swear that the adverb is the bane of the written word, all the while using them liberally in their work.
  11. My personal favorite – write every day.
    Half and half agree.  I write something everyday but I do not write fiction everyday.  I have a cycle.  I write and blog and chat on forums and work on my non-fiction tutorials etc.  In every case I try to write conscisely and try to keep typos and grammar issues to a minimum.  (I often run into problems with my PC, my Spanish operating system etc.)  But writing without purpose is a sure-fire way to get a terrible first draft that no amount of editing will salvage.  I write my fiction when it is ready to come out.  I don´t force it.

There is no RIGHT or WRONG.
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What there is is ORIGINAL or  DERIVATIVE.  NEW or PREDICTABLE.  GROUND BREAKING or COMMERCIAL.

Signing off.
David Gordon Burke

Find my books here.

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