Personal Rules for Writing

Rules, although sometimes necessary, can be very overwhelming. Especially when it comes to applying rules to something that you love doing.

Me? I love writing. And hate rules.

I’ve done a few searches along my writing journey, looking for ways to make the process easier. Tools, tips, tricks, rules…anything that could streamline writing. Or, if you want to call me out directly on my BS, finding distractions to keep me from writing. It’s something a majority of writers are pretty good at.

A lot of those rule lists though…they can make you feel like you don’t have your stuff together pretty quickly. And personally, those lists have a way of eating away at me, making me feel like I’m missing something or sometimes, like I don’t have what it takes to be a serious writer. I end up questioning myself more than I care to.

Do not write long sentences, do not use big words, avoid cliches (good luck with that), be more or less specific (what?!), don’t think, just write (you literally have to think to write).

Write what you know….

Becomes a bit much, doesn’t it? You can write a beautiful, long sentence.

Image result for three amigos plethora meme

Sometimes those big words are fun to use! Give me an opportunity to use the word plethora and I will jump all over that for the Three Amigos reference alone.

And write what you know? Where’s the growth in that? So many writers researches topics they know very little about. That’s why our browser histories are super sketchy. There have been times I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone to write something I knew nothing about. It worked wonders for my writers block.

When it comes to creativity, following someone else’s rules for expressing yourself doesn’t make much sense. At least for me, it doesn’t. Whether or not it works for you truly depends on your personality, creative style and how you process information.

All three of those things for me are relatively all over the place. So much so that it made more sense to me to make my own rules instead of trying to follow the rules of others.

Rule number one:

Obviously…coffee. For most of us, it’s a necessity and if you’re going to be writing for long periods of time or you slip and fall into a bottomless lake of inspiration, you’re not going to want to give up on that inspiration just because of an inconvenience like thirst. Make sure you have your beverage of choice nearby. Coffee, tea, water, pop, warm milk…maybe even a Tom and Jerry. I’m not here to judge. Though that last one doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all…

Rule number two:

Have multiple outlets. I tend to have more than one story going at a time. Sometimes I want to write romance, sometimes I want to write horror. To have just one piece to work on really limits you to work within the scope of that one piece. Having a second or third one allows you more than one outlet to work your crafty magic.

Rule number three:

Be willing to adjust. I have carpal tunnel and it tends to flare up pretty horribly when I’m typing. Some days, writing with a pen in a notebook is easier. Some days, I love writing in multi-colored pen. There’s a visual appeal there that draws me. And in a pinch, if you’re fine listening to your own voice dictating your work, you can use the voice recorder function on your phone. Adjust to your available mediums.

Rule number four:  

Push yourself, but know when you need a break. A five minute break for a refill, a ten minute break to move, a day or two away from the hell you’ve created for your characters…know when to step away from it and be okay with stepping away from it. Forcing yourself to write something will result in a mess you probably won’t be happy with. And if you’re not happy with that mess, you’re going to be less happy with having to delete it all and cursing the time you invested in something that you’re not okay with.

Rule number five:

Have humility in your work. I’ve been writing and posting fanfiction for a long time and as I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve been stunned by the number of young writers who refuse advice, get angry with a friendly critique, or bad mouth a willing editor because they didn’t like what that editor had to say. They think their work is fine, as is. Well…here’s the thing…you’ll never be a perfect writer. Or you should at least never think that you are. There is always, always room for improvement and growth. To think your writing is perfect and that you don’t need to make any changes at all is to stifle your growth as a writer. There’s so much potential in the world of a writer – untraveled genres, undiscovered characters, characters whose stories may not be anywhere near over. Be humble in your work and willing to grow, willing to accept critiques and willing to realize that you are fully capable of going past what you think is your best.

Rule number six:

Make sure you love what you’re doing. Remember why you’re writing – because it gives you joy. The second it doesn’t give you joy is the second you’ve stopped writing for you.

Now, these all work for me because I made them. I made sure they weren’t overwhelming, that they made sense and, most importantly, that I liked them. If they work for you, wonderful! I’m more than happy that I was able to help in some way. But if they don’t, they don’t. And that’s okay too. Sit down and make your own list, keeping in mind what makes and breaks you as a writer. Your rules? Those have to work for you.

“Trust yourself to know more than you think you do.” ~Benjamin Spock

1 thought on “Personal Rules for Writing”

  1. Good advice. When you get to be a critically-acclaimed author like Cormac McCarthy, you get to start making your own rules. The guy uses hardly any punctuation but it works for him.

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