Five Rules

A regular reader of this space may have observed that I eschew writing rules. While I am a full proponent of showing instead of telling and decent grammar and so on, I think it best to let folks find their own way. Chances are we will all arrive at more or less the same place. That said, I have accrued my own vague lists of rules that I try to follow each time I sit down to work. Here they are: 1. Feel first; Write Second. When I find myself hating what I am writing it is always because I am not feeling anything. If I feel nothing, then there is actually nothing to write, and so what I am writing is just an imitation of what I sounded like when I did feel something. Sometimes I need to feel the energetic flow of the story, and sometimes I need to feel what the characters in a scene are feeling – either way, until I feel something interesting, it’s best to avoid writing anything. Of course this wouldn’t be a problem if I followed rule number 2 . . .

2. Be Patient. Stories take time, characters take time, even sentences can take time. Like most writers, I enjoy writing, only so much so that I get myself into trouble by diving in before I actually have something I want to say; or I beat myself up for not finishing a book in six drafts; or for only writing two pages in a day. There is a profound difference between procrastination and patience: one is avoiding, the other is waiting.

3. Be Humble. When I’m on the beam and the good stuff comes, I say, “Thank you,” and back away. Writing is a hands-off operation. When I start congratulating myself I get my hands all over what I’m trying to do, and this only gets in the way of more good stuff coming.

4. Be Compassionate. Every time I criticize someone else’s work, I am criticizing my own work. Every time I allow someone else to make their own mistakes, I allow myself to make my own mistakes.

5. Stick the Landing. Good stories are about good endings. The ending is the gift and the reason the story is being told. I am never finished telling a story until I know why I am telling it.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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