My own writing rules

Earlier today I reblogged Henry Miller’s writing rules, courtesy of the blog Miss Rosen.

I have the book Henry Miller on Writing, and although it’s been a while since I took a look at it, I remember thinking it was good. I have to admit, I love writing advice from other authors. I like to hear about their techniques, struggles, and insights. It’s interesting and inspiring to learn how other people’s creative processes work.

So, in the spirit of sharing, I’ve created my own list of writing rules:

1. Sit down, have coffee nearby. Get started. While Henry Miller says you shouldn’t work on more than one thing at a time, I disagree. I have a few books going right now. This way, if one is not clicking I can go to the next. I am not afraid to start another one at any time, if I am so inclined. I find inspiration everywhere, and I think it’s best to go with that inspiration while you’re excited and motivated to write about it. If you decide to shelf your ideas in your brain for later, they may be gone when you finally sit down to work on them. However, once you record them, they will stay ignited and be there for you down the road when you have more time.

As my husband jokes with me each time I tell him that I am starting yet another novel, “It’s all about Quantity, not Quality, Honey.”

2. Avoid distractions. I cannot stand hearing a television or music when I’m writing. Occasionally a certain song may seem to fit with something I am writing. I might then stop what I am doing to listen to it or watch a YouTube video of it. Otherwise, silence. I like sunlight, my dog, open windows, and other slight distractions. I am not suggesting you type in your garage or something. I just don’t think noise is conducive to good writing.

3. Writing should be fun. If you are having a bad time writing it, people will have a bad time reading it. Sometimes I like writing better than reading. It’s often a surprise for me what is coming next, and when I get really into the characters I create, I cannot wait to see how things will turn out for them.

4. While writing should be fun, it’s not careless. As a kid I despised making rough drafts. I felt I knew how I wanted the end product to be, and I wanted to jump right in and make it happen. I can remember more than once, writing research reports (Gag!), and then faking scribbly, much-worse versions of my “earlier tries” just to appease my teachers. This aversion to rough drafts plagued me all the way through college, causing me to pull the same trick with design projects where we were supposed to start with sketches, working our way up to a final design. Honestly, I wasn’t alone in this habit. Sometimes half the class could be seen working on their fake “inspiration” sketches in the hallways before class started.

Now that I write for myself and not for some teacher, I have dozens of drafts for every book I write. If anything, the opposite problem is now true, in that no work is ever truly finished, or perfect enough to be completely satisfying. I currently have several finished books waiting for… I don’t know what.

Editing, tweaking, fact-checking, and reading passages aloud are all a part of the process. There are no longer shortcuts.

5. Although everything written has its own voice, follow grammatical rules whenever possible and fitting. If you aren’t sure, look it up.

6. Number 4 was so important, I am going to say it again: Edit and refine, edit and refine, edit and refine.

7. Even though it might be difficult, especially at first, ask other people what they think. Fresh eyes will catch typos you missed and recognize problems that you were too familiar with to see. Realize not everyone is going to “get” your writing, or like it. Some people will tear you apart. Others will tell you “Oh, neat, you wrote a book!” However, others will have a great editing eye and valuable insights for you. You’ll find people who are genuinely excited for you, who truly enjoy your work. So, DO share your work, and listen to feedback, realizing that YOU get to decide which advice you take and which you politely ignore.

8. More coffee.

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