Sixteen Simple Rules For Writers

1. Keep in tune with the publishing world by reading blogs, following agents on Twitter, etc. Also: avoid anything that distracts you from writing, especially the Internet.

2. Learn from the classics. Also: the classics violate most of the writing advice you get, and would be largely unpublishable if written today.

3. Write every day, no matter what, even if you don’t feel like it. Also: take vacations now and then, or you’ll go crazy.

4. Don’t obsess over the rules of the querying process. Also: the rules of the querying process are staggeringly complex, vary from one agent to the next, and will determine the success of your career.

5. Make your protagonists realistic and believable, and let your writing celebrate the beauty of all human life. Also: your protagonists have to be strong and active or nobody will like them.

6. Your novel should be deep, subtle, and complex. Also: to make your novel marketable, you should be able to sum it up in one sentence, and you should write the novel with that sentence in mind.

7. You can’t trust your instincts about your own work, so you need to get your manuscript critiqued. Also: when listening to critique advice, trust your instincts.

8. Don’t send off your novel until it’s your best work. Also: don’t sit on one novel forever.

9. Don’t say “there was,” avoid passive voice, avoid adverbs, and use only the “said” dialogue tag. Also: craft a voice for your writing that’s uniquely you.

10. Use all forms of social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google+) to promote yourself, even if you don’t want to, because that’s what authors need to do. Also: if you’re not passionate about social media, it will show, and using it for self-promotion will fail.

11. Remember you are unique and special. Also: remember you are not at all unique or special.

12. Pour your passion and soul into your writing; base it on your own ideas, feelings, observations, and life. Also: don’t take critiques personally, because they only criticize your work, not you.

13. Show, don’t tell. Also: telling uses fewer words than showing, and you should use the fewest words possible.

14. Don’t be redundant. Also: if you only say something once, the reader will forget it.

15. Give your readers something fresh and unusual, something outside of everyday life. Also: write what you know.

16. Listen to writing advice. Also: don’t listen to writing advice.

There…hope that helps!

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27 responses to “Sixteen Simple Rules For Writers

  1. This is awesome. This is the essence of the pure frustration I’m sure at least all aspiring writers feel. It’s all contradicting!!!!! @_@

  2. LOLOLOLOL! So hilariously, horrendously true. Thanks for this, it totally cracked me up.

  3. Comments should be insightful and pertinent. C’est nes pas une comment.

  4. …Makes sense!

  5. I love this. I snarfed my coffee by number 2. A perfect representation of all the writing advice out there. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Pingback: Writerly Wednesday - Kristan Hoffman - Writing Dreams Into Reality

  7. Fantastic list! What about…

    Write for yourself as if no one else was going to read it. Also, make sure it appeals to the masses.

  8. Hahahaha awesome list! Perfect writing advice. [Here via Kristan’s link :)]

  9. Oh, that’s terrific and true. I love number six. Also, it is my nemesis.

  10. I nodded, smiled and laughed all the way through – love it!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Man, this hit the spot for where I’m at right about now. Well done!

  12. I’ve been getting frustrated with writing advice online lately, and am glad I came across this post. I’m glad I’m not the only one perplexed, and amused by the paradoxes of the writing universe.

  13. A brilliant set of 32 simple rules for the complexities of writing! I’ll follow at least half of them!

  14. I’ve published two non-fiction books with major publishers. You learn to deal with all the contradictions because no one, anywhere, knows for sure what is going to sell, or not. That’s why the “advice” seems so confusing. But number six is true. You need to be able to describe your book in a sentence because it shows you know exactly what your book is and who it’s for…

    Here’s another rule (which is worth knowing; I’ve used it): My book is a combination of X, X and X — with a twist, that’s Y.” The three Xs, of course, have to be best-sellers that the agent and editor have heard of. Publishers need to be reassured you understand the marketplace and how you will fit into it; no matter how silly or arbitrary the “rules” seem to be, they’re just trying to impose a little order on chaos…

  15. I would only add that one should avoid clichรฉs like the plague .

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