9 Rules for Writers

Psst. Want to hear some of the secret rules for writing? Okay, so they're not really secret, but some people never learn these things.

Here are some things I learned about writing along the way, and from whom I learned them. I think you'll find them to be great tips and also rather entertaining.

(This article previously appeared in Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter for writers. Click to subscribe today if you want to read articles like this as soon as they are published.)

9 Rules for Writers

1. Leave out the parts people skip over. ("I try to leave out the parts that people skip." ~ Elmore Leonard)

2. Write and finish what you write then put it out in the marketplace. ("You must write. You must finish what you write. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order. You must put it on the market until sold." ~ Robert A. Heinlein)

3. Be enthusiastic about your writing and your career. ("Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson)

4. You work with words so make sure you have a great command of language. ("The difference between using the right word and the one that is almost right is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." ~ Mark Twain)

5. Novels are characterized by rising action. ("When in doubt, have two guys come through the door with guns." ~ Raymond Chandler)

6. A first draft should be written, not rewritten and revised until you're making no forward progress. ("Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft." ~ Stephen King)

7. Know what the market is doing, but write the story that's in your heart and head. ("It is more profitable to stay aware of trends generally, yet concentrate your energies on simply writing the best novel you know how to write. Don't chase the market. Write the novel that is in you. ~ Jack Bickham)

8. Make writing a daily habit because habit will put you in front of the computer even when you don't want to be there. ("Fortify yourself within an impregnable structure of writing habits." ~ Leonard Bishop)

9. When you think you can't write a certain thing, you need to make an all-out assault on that piece of writing and not back down. There is power in doing that which you think you can't do. ("The time to be relentless in completing a scene is when you are absolutely certain you cannot accomplish it." ~ Leonard Bishop)

Takeaway Truth

These nine rules are relatively easy to follow, and they'll make a huge difference in your writing career.

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