The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
This article from the Guardian is making its rounds: Ten Rules for Writing Fiction. It’s inspired by Elmore Leonard’s upcoming 10 Rules of Writing, about which I’m somewhat conflicted. Rule #1, you see, I’m breaking in the book I’m writing RIGHT NOW, and I’m breaking it something fierce. The rules about verbs of utterance, adverbs, and–for the love of all that’s holy–exclamation points, are good ones–though, like with chocolate, commenting on political web sites, and em dashes, I would urge self-control rather than total abstinence.
Really, I’m not a huge fan of writing rules–my rule is: “You can do whatever you want, as long as it works.” That last part is the sticker.
The Guardian‘s asked a bunch of writers for their lists, and they are really worth reading. I will vehemently argue against some of the rules here. Cut out the metaphors and similes? Really? The last thing I want to read about are things that are only like themselves. Meanwhile, Jonathan Franzen looks like he’s striving after a career in fortune cookie writing. I hear it’s quite lucrative.
Arguing, though, is probably part of the point. But the more interesting rules, to me, are the writing life rules. Write, they tell us. Read. Have a Thesaurus. Don’t write reviews. Don’t write letters to the editor. Be fearless. Love what you do. Don’t have children. (I would amend that to “Have kids, just don’t let them get the croup.”)
My favorite list is Neil Gaiman’s. Maybe because he says what I think, only a heck of a lot better:
That guy’s smart. He must write children’s books.
Meanwhile, congratulations to Hamline MFA’ 10 student Cheryl Bardoe for the publication of Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age.
This is a fabulous cover.