Writing 101: Rules for Writers

Writing books for aspiring writers are chock full of rules… okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it seems everyone is bent on giving advice to the newbie writer. Some of this advice is right on the mark, but other times it flies astray. The most important rule to remember, I think, is the fact that every writer is different. What works for one writer, might not work for another. For example, one of the most quoted aphorisms for the aspiring writer is “Write every day.” I wish. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m not supposed to be a writer, but I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. And I can’t write every day. I’ll go through phases and write consistently for several weeks at a time, then burn out and be unable to function for a week or so. I think, perhaps, the better advice is the advice a writerly friend once gave me: “Do something writerly every day.” Write on those days you can. Read on those days you can’t. Or take a look at poetry to study the economy of word usage. Set a day aside for world building. Another day for development of your craft. Having a varied approach to the discipline can be quite effective. This works much better for me, if for no other reason that it alleviates the stress that comes with the utter conviction that I must write every day. I’ve learned to pace myself somewhat. Keeping that in mind, I’d change the rule to “Write as often as you can.”

 

The next rule is: “Revision. Revision. Revision.” Don’t ever stop revising. The first draft is never the final draft. You will always be able to improve a piece through revision. And besides, this will probably take up as much of your time as writing, or very close to it. I know it takes me about an hour to complete a rough draft of three pages or so. A typical chapter measures fifteen pages in length, which gives me five hours of typing. Then, I revise the chapter at least four times at about an hour or two for each revision. These are all rough estimates, but it is clear that the time spent editing and revising is comparable to, if not greater than, the time actually spent writing. And that’s a good thing. The more you edit and revise, the more you improve your craft… that’s where the real learning the ins and outs of writing happens.

 

The next rule is: “Get feedback.” Ideally, you should join a writing group of people whose writing ability is at least comparable to your own, if not superior. That’s the best way to learn—from those who know. Even if you live out in the country, the Internet can provide access to a great deal of writing talent. Just do a search for on-line writing groups.

 

Next is: “Patience.” If you are going the traditional route, expect to be rejected. Over and over again. It happened to me so often, I just said to heck with it and decided to publish on my own. If you are like me and want to go the self-publishing route, you get to do all the work from writing the manuscript to marketing it. If you don’t have the skills, you will have to develop them.

 

The final rule is: “Build your reputation.” It can be a little overwhelming at first. Begin with a blog and/or a web-site. Consistently provide value to your site and the followers will come. It’s a time consuming process, but you should devote a certain amount of time each week to marketing and building your reputation. As a general rule, I try to write all my blog entries in advance so I’m not running around like a chicken with its head cut off when it comes time to publish them. It saves on the stress and blood pressure.

 

Well, those are five (or is it six?) of the most important rules of writing. Follow those and you’ll be on your way.

10 thoughts on “Writing 101: Rules for Writers

  1. catherinebowman

    “Do something writerly every day.” Excellent advice. Because of my health I cannot write every day. Some days I get 100 words in and I’m screwed. Some days I have a thousand words written by 9 am. But I try to do something to forward my work, reputation and characters/world every day.

    Revision takes practice. It takes learning the rules.

    The only thing I’d have to add is: Write like YOU right. Not like your favourite authors. Not like the current trends. Not like your writer group pals (I don’t belong to one but I have a group who gives me brutally honest feedback).

    Reply
  2. debyfredericks

    If I may give a counterpoint, the assumption here is that you’ve asked your friends or picked up a writing book looking for some sort of advice. You’ve invested time, and perhaps money, in this search. So don’t be too quick to say, “that won’t work for me” or “you don’t understand what I’m writing about.” You owe it to yourself not to bail on your own investment too soon.

    Reply
  3. Mark Kollra

    Some of the most highest and important rules were left out.

    1). Try not to use too many punctuation characters where not necessary.

    2). About twenty years ago, when I went to the UofA, my upper writing proficiency examiner told us that there are a lot more transitional words that we are now able to use, such as And, Cause, As, This, Now, and so many others that were once illegal. And this depends on ones type of expression in their writing. I could have used a comma after the word, “And” in the sentence before this one. However, I chose not to pause after the word, “And”.

    3). Ya have to write like the following when you want to tell the reader what someone said. Neil Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant step for mankind”.

    4). After the end of every sentence, you have to put two spaces before the next sentence, and not one space.

    5). When writing an itemised outlined thesis, your second sentence must represent the first sentence and so forth.

    6). When you are thru writing the first paragraph, your next paragraph must represent the first paragraph and so forth.

    7). All types of writing is a form of art. Thus exceedingly to say, writing is similar to crafty art, in all types of media. Art is everything!
    Everything is art. There is no such thing as wrong art or right art.

    8). There are very many people whom may argue against what is the right form of writing, and what is not. It all depends on ones interests, and ones judgement. And, everybody’s opinion is absolutely valid.

    9). The logic of nature is gifted to all of us thru the freedom of chosing the free will to say what is art and what is not art. Music is just one of millions of different types of art.

    10). Lastly, there art many types of art that require a lot of math to finish your masterpiece. It may be a song, a science project, and/or both-in-one. For instance, the game “Chess” has magnificently built and sculptured chess pieces. But, this game is supposed to be strategically logical.

    11). If your are being entertained directly by chess, then perhaps you might internalize the game in such a way as similar as theatre arts.

    12). Lastly, philosophie

    Reply
    1. Mark Kollra

      Some of the most highest and important things, (not rules), were left out.

      1). Try not to use too many punctuation characters where not necessary. Keep your reader interested.

      2). About twenty years ago, when I went to the UofA, my upper writing proficiency examiner told us that there are a lot more transitional words that we are now able to use, such as And, Cause, As, This, Now, and so many others that were once illegal. And this depends on ones type of expression in their writing. I could have used a comma after the word, “And” in the sentence before this one. However, I chose not to pause after the word, “And”.

      3). Ya have to write like the following when you want to tell the reader what someone said. Neil Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant step for mankind”. This is how I was taught back east of America. Your rules may be totally different, and I will respect that.

      4). After the end of every sentence, you have to put two spaces before the next sentence, and not one space. Unfortunately, this site will place what I have written here, all my sentences back to only one space.

      5). When writing an itemised outlined thesis, your second sentence must represent the first sentence and so forth.

      6). When you are thru writing the first paragraph, your next paragraph must represent the first paragraph and so forth.

      7). All types of writing is a form of art. Thus exceedingly to say, writing is similar to crafty art, in all types of media. Art is everything!
      Everything is art. There is no such thing as wrong art or right art. Who is the one who woke up out of bed and say, “Today, it will be “I” that will decide what is normal and what us not normal.

      8). There are very many people whom may argue against what is the right form of writing, and what is not. It all depends on ones interests, and ones judgement. And, everybody’s opinion is absolutely valid.

      9). The logic of nature is gifted to all of us thru the freedom of chosing the free will to say what is art and what is not art. Music is just one of millions of different types of art.
      Again, everybody’s opinion is valid.

      10). There art many types of art that require a lot of math to finish your masterpiece. It may be a song, a science project, and/or both-in-one. For instance, the game “Chess” has magnificently built and sculptured chess pieces. But, this game is supposed to be strategically logical.

      11). If your are being entertained directly by chess, then perhaps you might internalize the game in such a way as similar as theatre arts.

      12). Lastly, philosophy has no lies and no truths. Philosophy has no wrongs and no rights. It just philosophy and that’s good. I know a lot more, but I can’t say. I can’t say because rules were made to be broken. Why; you might ask? Because everything is perpetual, meaning that everything is on it’s way to somewhere. This kind of constant change is unrelenting as time rolls on. Eventually, I will get around to disagreeing with myself, because nothing will be the same as it was like it is today. But that’s just my opinion.
      Thanx n God bless you.

      Reply
      1. atoasttodragons

        And these rules are constantly changing. For example, now it is common practice to have just 1 space after the period, instead of 2. Anyway, I tried to focus on just the big stuff. Obviously, there’s more that can be said. But thanks for your list.

        Reply

Leave a Reply