Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Rules! Rules! Rules!

Bloody things.  Hate them.  Especially with regards to writing.  But there are a few good ones, or should I say, ones I've found helpful.  I do my best to 'Kill my darlings', as Faulkner once said, and 'never use a complicated word when a simple one will do' as Orwell told me.  Elmore Leonard, well he's got a load of good ones.

Here's a few links that describe a few rules of writing.  Take a look, if you want.

Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing

What George Orwell Reckons

 Margaret Atwood's Suggestions

Some Bloke's Ramblings

For me, this writing stories lark is all about listening clearly to the voices in my head.  Watching the pictures unfold without me interfering with them.  Then write with as truthful a pen as I can find.  But my favourite rule comes from out of my counselling training days.  I think it was Donald Winnicott or Wilfred Bion on their advice to students, said something like:

'Learn everything you can. All of it. Then forget it all.' 

I like that. 

What is your take on all this rule business?  What is your personal writing code?


  1. I don't so much consider any of the ideas about what should and shouldn't be done as rules. Guidelines that are often in tune with what readers prefer in their reading.

    I try to be sparse. I try to give only the amount of information necessary-- no more and no less-- on characters, descriptions, and conflict. Of course, that's a pretty tough set to balance. And I love analogies, esp. unusual ones.

    In the end, though, I tell the story that needs to be told and hope that I've done it justice with the words I picked. Kind of like getting dressed up for a social function and hoping that you've done okay with the clothes that you own (and that fit).

  2. I keep making rules or finding ones I like then I see a whole slew of writers who violate those rules and it makes no difference.

  3. Here's my rules for writing:
    1. Write the best damn story you can.

    2. What/how/when/why others write really, in the
    end, doesn't apply. Writing is an artform
    than can only get better with practice.

    3. Write the best damn story you can.

  4. I think it's critical to know the rules -- All of them -- by heart. That way when you chose to ignore them it _is_ a choice, not a mistake.

  5. Guidelines, indeed, Clair. And I love your analogy. Unless the story is our own, it's just someone else's words put in a different order. And that's no story at all.

    I think both B.R. and AJ are spot on, Chris. Know the rules, learn their place, then use or abuse them as you see fit. Whatever the story demands in the truthful telling of it, that's what you use.

    The rules, they're just other peoples ideas.