Some time ago, I had a wonderful writing instructor who introduced me to these Rules of being a Writer. The art of writing usually has rules that can be bent once you’re proficient enough, but these eight rules are so important that no one who writes should ever forget them. So here they are.
Rule 1: Have Fun!
Usually that’s the last one in the list. You know: do-all-this-to-write-oh-and-don’t-forget-to-have-fun. But really it should be first. If you’re not having fun, why are you writing? Many people seem to think that writing is an arduous process wrought from the depths of a suffering human soul.
Haha, that’s a load of Barnacles. Seriously.
Writing isn’t about being sad and depressed. Though I do love Edgar Allen Poe, I don’t want EVERYTHING I read to be like him. Writing and Creating should be a fun thing. If it grates on your very being to write or to even think about writing, you’re probably doing something wrong. “The fun should be bigger than you.” It should be so much fun that you can’t help laughing or screaming to let it out. Think of little kids playing outside. They’re having too much fun to stay quiet.
Rule 2: Become a Super Spy
As a Super Spy, you have to pay attention to how real people act. When a friend reacts to something a certain way, you learn why so that you know how your characters would react in various situations. Pick up the little things that people do.
One thing that is most often said about Jane Austin is that she was a careful observer of human nature. We have to do the same. Sitting in a public place and watching how people act is one of the best exercises a writer can do.
Rule 3: KNow Why You Write
Why do you write? Do you write because you want to tell a story? Do you write because you have these amazing ideas that other people should know about? Do you write because you have to, or else you will explode?
Do you write because you want to be rich? Because you want to write the great American novel? Because you want to be remembered?
Why do you write? Without understanding why you write, you lose something in your writing. Sometimes your reasons change, and that’s fine, but if you don’t know why you’re writing, you may just stop.
Rule 4: Let Go of Myths
There is no cabin on a lake in New England where you will get to sit and write all day on a typewriter. It just doesn’t work that way. Other myths include: publishing will solve all your problems; you’ll automatically be rich and famous; and everyone must like what you wrote because your mom or your friends do.
Holding on to writing myths can cause disappointment, distort our expectations, and worst of all, even keep us from writing. Let them go.
Rule 5: Be Nerdy
Nerds and Geeks have intense passion for whatever they do. You have to be passionate about what you do. You have to love it. If you don’t love it, you won’t do it, and if you try to make yourself do it, you won’t do it
well. Why do anything you’re not passionate about?
Rule 6: Read
Every good writer has to read. We love words. We love stories. If you want to write well, read that which was well written. I was once advised to have a list of your 20 favorite living writers. The “living” part is important because that will help you know the world you’re trying to break into a little better. If you only read dead authors, you probably will write like them…and you won’t ever be published.
Reading also helps prime the well of creativity. When you’re in a writing slump, go read something that you love. Or read something new. Chances are, you’ll get the juices flowing and ideas will come.
Rule 7: Accept Criticism
It can be hard to let someone read something you’ve written—especially if they find a lot of problems. But writers need feedback. We need to let others read our work, and we need them to tear it to pieces. We will never improve if everyone we hand it to says, “Wow, that’s great!” That may stroke our egos, but it doesn’t help us write any better.
Find a writer’s group, whether it’s in person or online. Find your people. Workshop together and get used to giving and getting criticism. Don’t be harsh—there’s good in almost everything—but don’t be too soft either. Practice taking criticism graciously; they probably have a point.
Rule 8: Learn the Craft
No one wakes up one day with the ability to write well; it takes time. It’s really a never-ending process. The moment you say you’ve learned everything you can learn about writing, you stop progressing and actually get worse.
In all likelihood, your first drafts will be terrible. Read books on craft, take classes, read articles, practice. You’ll improve bit by bit, but never stop learning.