People are always posting rules of writing and it annoys me. I have opinions about many things, and this is definitely one of them. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know I think writing rules are generally a load of bollocks. They often contain good advice, but “rules” can go and get fucked. So, [engage irony mode] [irony mode engaged] [remove hypocrisy filter] [hypocrisy filter removed] here are my ten rules for writing. They’re the only rules you’ll ever need. See if you can spot the pattern.
No matter what, if you write, you’re a writer. If you don’t write, you’re not a writer. Wanting to write, intending to write or really loving the idea of writing is not writing.
Doesn’t matter when, where, how or how often, just do it. Once a day, once a week, once on month, whatever. Sit your arse down somewhere and write. The more often you do it, the better you will be.
You won’t find time to write. No one has time to write. You make time to write. Can’t make time? Then you don’t want it badly enough.
Seeing a pattern yet? Write anything. A description of the room you’re in. How you can’t think of anything to write about. It’s like weight lifting – you gotta do a lot of reps.
You can’t write very well before you’ve practiced. You’re probably rubbish at first, your writing sucks. Who cares? Keep writing and get better – it’s how we all do it, and continue to do it.
Emulate writers you love, but let your voice come out. You won’t have a strong voice at first, but you will if you keep writing. Take advice and critique, go to workshops, join a writers’ group (IRL or online) and always strive to improve your craft.
Don’t wait for inspiration. Just write. If you sit around waiting for inspiration, you’ll be sitting around a lot. If you have an hour, write for an hour. Waiting is a luxury you can’t afford.
It will be shit, but who cares? Just write. You can make it good later, but not if you haven’t written anything. Allow yourself to write crap, finish something, then polish it into a gem. Repeat. Polishing turds into gems is the alchemy of the writerly way.
Be determined to write. If you don’t really want it, it’s not going to happen. And that’s okay. But if you do really want it, you need a skin like a rhino and a bloody-minded determination that makes lesser beings drown in your wake. Do. Not. Stop. Submit your polished gems, brace for rejection, repeat. Keep going.
C-c-c-combo breaker! Read everything. Read voraciously: fiction, non-fiction, in your genre and out, the newspaper, signs while you’re driving. Reading is the fuel of your rhino-skinned determination. It’s the backbone that supports your writerly muscles. If you don’t read, you can’t write.
So there you have it – that’s my ten rules. Obviously, it’s really only two rules: read loads and write loads. Don’t stop. Take advice and learn. Keep getting better, don’t give up. Of course, all kinds of other things will work for you and you’ll develop methods and habits. But those things won’t work for everyone and other people’s stuff might not work for you. When it comes down to it, there are only two actual rules of writing: Read and Write. There – you are a writer. Now, go forth and scatter words before you.
For your convenience, below are these ten rules in a handy graphic. Click for a larger version. Feel free to share.