Someone asked me to define my own 'writing rules.' I prefer to think of these as hints and suggestions which may help you determine your own.
Note: These 'rules' are subject to editing and development.
1. Define your goals.
Do you want
to be a full time professional? Someone who writes as a hobby? Someone
who just wants to see their name in print? Short stories, novels or
both? None of these ambitions are any less valid than the others. There
are a number of famous novelists who hold down full time jobs still. By
choice. But it helps if you are clear in your intentions.
is one where I agree with Heinlein. Many people intend to write, few
actually do. It doesn't have to be everyday, just as often as you can
and appropriate to your goals. Don't complain you don't have the time -
none of us do. If you want to do something badly enough you'll make the
time. I also think the rule about "finishing it" is implicit in this
rule. There's no point in only writing opening or paragraphs unless they
are exercises for practice.
3. Read widely.
non-fiction, news, science, classics, literature, biographies,
cross-genre - even genres you would never normally read. Take it all in
and let it swish around inside you.
4. Rewrite as required but don't tinker endlessly.
you progress as a writer it becomes easier to see flaws in your own
work. I took an older story that wouldn't sell, a story I loved, applied
new learning to it and rewrote parts of it resulting in a story double
the original length. It sold, was nominated for an award and has
received great comments and reviews. On the other hand don't keep
tweaking it endlessly. And don't be afraid to lose words to better the
story. Your words aren't that sacred.
5. Let it be read.
amazed at the number of people who want to be a writer but are too
scared to show their writing to anyone. I'll admit it was terrifying the
first time, but you soon get used to it. Show your work to people,
submit it to markets. Get it out there. Isn't that what storytelling is
groups, workshops, online classes, writing books, writing buddies and
so on. Develop your skills and learn. Everything. Grammar is a good
place to start. Strunk & White is very useful.
7. Listen to critiques.
that doesn't mean you need to need to treat them all equally. A reader
may be able to tell you it didn't work for them but not be able to
explain why. A writer might be able to explain why. Remember that your
story is aimed at readers. If it doesn't work for one, it may not work
for others. On the other hand beware of advice starting with "I would
have written it like this..."
8. Be part of the community.
is generally a solitary activity. Spend time with the community, both
online and in person. Go to conventions, meet people and socialise. It's
amazing the doors that will open. Remember networking is important, but
networking is a two-way street. It's not just about what others can do
for you. If you take and never give you will soon be ignored. Social
media is supposed to be social. By all means mention a new release, or a
sale, or even the occasional writing problem or word count. But if
you're solely on Facebook to promote your work it soon becomes little
more than spam.
9. Be professional.
all aspects of your public life - at conventions, online and when
dealing with editors and publishers. I know of several writers whose
works I refuse to buy simply because they've been rude or arrogant
towards me. And just because you've made a sale doesn't mean you're now
an expert on writing or anything else. Don't sermonise, pontificate or
put others down.
10. Have fun.
are times you'll pull your hair out, curse editors and publishers and
declare you're hopeless and can't write. But then there are those time
you get to hold your newly published work in your hands, or make a sale,
or receive positive emails from writers. And there is nothing like the
feeling of typing the final full-stop at the end of a piece you just
know is the best thing you've ever written.
11. Don't rest on your laurels.
You're best work is not necessarily behind you. Keep writing.