My rules for writing

[Updated the title.  Was previously – “My 24 rules for writing.” I expect over time I’ll discover more rules.]

I thought it was time I organized my own rules of writing. These are personal and will not work for everyone. Feel free to use, copy, or ignore.

  1. Never use the word “get” for any reason. It’s lazy and imaginative.
  2. Never use a thesaurus to find a word.  Use it to help you find you want to say.
  3. Writing something is always better than writing nothing. You can always discard something. Nothing can never be good enough to keep or use.
  4. In case of writer’s block, read about human decision-making, economics, how people think, and essays. Interpretations of core philosophical works are acceptable but not the original works themselves. They are too dense to identify what is valid or important. Leave that to people much smarter than you.
  5. Think about your topic the night before you plan to write.
  6. Confirm your subject-predicate agreements.
  7. Incomplete sentences are acceptable. Sometimes.
  8. Use commas, but judiciously to guide the reader on how you’d prefer they read the sentence.
  9. Think “long, short, short” in constructing a paragraph.
  10. If you need a semicolon, your sentence is completely fucked up.
  11. Never end sentences with prepositions.
  12. Check your subject-predicate agreements.
  13. Scrap all attempts to be funny. Situations are funny. Stories are funny. Writers are not.
  14. Don’t try to out-wit your reader. Attempts to do so will fail miserably and your writing becomes childish.
  15. Read your sentences aloud during proofreading. It will embarass you into writing better.
  16. Editing always takes longer than writing. Plan for this.
  17. Writing dialogue is very difficult to make believable or interesting. Make it good or skip it altogether.
  18. Write on paper with a good pen from time to time. Thoughts flow differently in a new environment. Have pads of paper and pens scattered around the house at all times for this purpose.
  19. Write whenever and wherever an inspiration emerges because it’s unlikely that same inspiration will come again.
  20. As soon as you realize that you’re becoming tired and losing focus, you are. Keep writing if you so choose, but it is unlikely that more coffee or a break will help.  You’re done for the day.  Rejoice – the hard work is now done.
  21. If you disagree with someone, don’t tip-toe around with “I don’t totally agree.” Remember your debate lessons. “While he makes several valid points, I disagree.” is the correct way to present an opposing viewpoint. Otherwise your writing is just fluff without a backbone.
  22. Avoid similes.
  23. Be honest.
  24. Brevity is preferred.
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