The 12 rules of writing
Rule 1: There are no rules. Wait? What? Yes, there are no rules in writing. There are traditions, guidelines, and best practices. Also, remember, there are still rules in grammar. Don’t break those. That’s bad.
Rule 2: Write. You’re not a writer unless you put pen to page or fingers to keys. Even if it’s just a sentence or two. The best way to get writing done is to set up routines and habits. A dedicated writing space is also helpful.
Rule 3: Back Up Your DATA! This isn’t a rule, but if you don’t and something happens I hope you're happy seeing months of work vanish like dust in the wind. External hard drives work well. I also recommend having a regular backup that you use and a monthly one, just in case the regular gets destroyed. Also, consider online backup. This will keep your files safe in case of a disaster like a hurricane or fire where your physical backups might be destroyed.
Rule 4: Read! It’s difficult sometimes making time, but if you’re not researching current works and getting exposure, how are you going to grow? Also, make it a practice to read at least one best seller and one current read. Reading only older books or books from little-known authors might lead your style to develop against the current flow of popular books.
Rule 5: Show, don’t tell. Nothing is more boring than page after page of Doug telling you how he went to the gas station and his truck broke down, so he bought a pack of cigarettes. Get right into the action. Show the shock on Doug’s face as the tire explodes. Show his defeat when he leaves his truck and grabs a pack of cigarettes. Showing brings the reader closer to the action and the character, and can be your greatest tool in writing.
Rule 6: Edit Later. Editing as you write can slow down the writing process and could cause you to take 2-3 times as long to complete your novel. You know you’re just going to have to edit it again when you’re finished, so save yourself some time and edit later.
Rule 7: Avoid Adverbs. Adverbs can be nonspecific and often show lazy writing. Try to avoid these and find better words to convey concrete detail.
Rule 8: Murder your loved ones. Or just take away something your character cherishes. The more hurt you can put on your character the more feeling you can elicit from the reader. Granted, don’t go over the top. The man only loses his wife, house, dog, truck, and 22. Rifle in a country song. Make it believable, but make them hurt.
Rule 9: Never use passive voice. If you say there is no way around this then I suggest you study a little more grammar. Passive voice can, almost, always be avoided. And in the cases that it can’t it’s for a very specific reason. Active voice draws in your reader and puts them into the action. The risk of passive voice is your reader glancing over the writing, trying to find what’s really important and ignoring other things. You NEVER want this to happen.
Rule 10: Eliminate "was" and "just". It’s one thing to use them in dialog, but in writing there is always a better way. "Was" is passive, which goes to rule 9, but also nonspecific, as I described in rule 7. "Just" does not add to your writing. It’s a fluff word that isn’t necessary. "He was just so angry" is lazy writing. "He fumed" is more dynamic and removed both the "was" and "just".
Rule 11: One head per scene. When you’re hopping into multiple heads in the same scene it makes it very hard for the reader to follow. This causes confusion and pulls the reader out. Remember, every time the reader is pulled out, it’s a chance they will put down the book and never pick it up again.
Rule 12: "Said" is only for dialog. Make a habit of only using "said" to tag dialog, or in dialog when needed. This helps prevent confusion when writing and for the reader when reading