Guest Post: My Rules for Writing (And Why You Should Have Them, Too)

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Hi everyone! We have a new guest today from Maxxe at Memories on a Page! She has just published her first novel, Touchstones, and it will be available in stores, soon, I believe. You can check back on her blog for confirmation. In further note, I know a lot of you lovely people have been trying to get some books and stories published and I thought maybe some advice from somebody who may start becoming professional can tell you a little about the journey and how they got there themselves. I’ve definitely had troubles with book writing, myself, and hopefully like you, I’ll be able to reach the finish lines by following some simple rules. Enjoy!

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A lot of my favorite authors have spoken or posted about their “rules for writing.” In some cases, it’s the physical stuff that they need to get their writing groove on. In others, it’s the general philosophy that they apply every time they sit down in front of a piece of paper with a pen.

I think that every writer should come up with their own “rules.” It’s always good to know what’s working for you, and that’s all that this type of rule really is: A list of what works for you. And if it stops working for you, then you can always change them, or just go back to the proverb that has been the motto of every truant in history—rules are meant to be broken.

My rules are pretty simple. There are five of them.

The first one is to write like no one is reading. It’s sort of like dancing like no one is watching. You do what you want to do.  If you want to write a story about imaginary friends who come to life, do it. I did—and ended up writing a whole novel about it. You want to write about a ballet dancer who grows a fluffy orange and purple tail every time she sneezes? Go ahead. It could turn out to be something that you really care about in the future, and really want to do something with later. Or, it might not. The point is that you’re writing.

Which brings me to my second “rule.” When you’re writing, turn that perfectionist streak off. Raise your hand up to the sky and move it from side to side a few times. See that? See what you’re doing? You are waving GOOD-BYE to your perfectionism. Not forever, but while you’re writing. Don’t you dare go back and edit, not until you are done. This is important because you won’t get in your own way. Let the words come out the way they want to—the story already exists, you’re just writing it down.

And the third one. The best way to get better at writing is to write. I carry around notebooks, I write in them just about every day, and I haven’t missed more than a day in almost three years. I’ve come up with a lot of blog posts in those notebooks, and a slightly insane amount of poetry. I doubt I would be the writer I am if I didn’t have those notebooks. It’s incredibly helpful to just get into the habit of writing.

The fourth is related to the first, the second, and the third. Do not, under any circumstances ever, throw away your words. If you don’t like it, chuck it into a folder on Google Docs or something. You don’t ever have to look at it again if you don’t want to. Just keep it. You might not like the plot of a story, but you can borrow a character, or a turn of phrase.

And the fifth and final “rule.” THESE ARE NOT RULES. These are guidelines. Like “dry-clean only.” You should probably break every rule you know. And that includes taking breaks from writing. I like to think of writing as vanilla ice cream. It’s good. It’s sweet and nice and good. But it’s not spectacular. And it’s not going to be spectacular until you mix in other things. And you can’t mix in other things unless you take a break from the vanilla ice cream to go get your mix-ins. So read books—elements from those will become your chocolate chips. Listen to music—chocolate sauce. Go out and do something risky, like hang-gliding (NOT like robbing a bank, that is one rule that you should NOT break). Call that a brownie bite.

Really, the point is, you don’t need rules for writing. No one ever has. But it’s nice to have something to refer to, and it’s never a bad thing to look at your own habits, and to get to know yourself.

Why not try coming up with your own guidelines for writing? See what happens!

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5 thoughts on “Guest Post: My Rules for Writing (And Why You Should Have Them, Too)

  1. Pingback: Sarah Dessen: Can Everyone Write a YA Novel? | 100 Ways to Write

  2. Pingback: Can Everyone Write a YA Novel? | A Writer's Path

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