Sunday, January 25, 2015


There's lots of advice scattered across the Internet regarding writing.
I'm not here to judge what others do, I only want to point out that not every "rule" applies to every writer.

          I enjoy quoting Stephen King.
                 You've been warned.

I read Stephen King's On Writing back in June 2010 (which probably means it's time to read it again), and called it a "gentle kick in the pants".

Not all of the rules below are attributed to him, but most of the quotes are:

1) "Write every day" - lots of people say this, but I'm not sure I agree

Also known as: "Guard your writing time fiercely."

I can only assume that when The King wrote this he didn't have kids. Or else he had a nanny. And someone else did his laundry, let the dogs out, and cooked supper.

I don't write every day unless you expand your definition to include other forms of developing the craft: editing, reading, beta reading, researching, blogging, or world building in my imagination as I'm multi-tasking (watering plants, folding laundry, or scooping the litter box).

Maybe if writing were my full time job, I'd be able to add to my WIP word count on a daily, instead of weekly, basis. In the mean time, I do the best I can.

Plus, there has to be balance between private life, work life, writing life, and hobby life.

2) "Don't edit until you've finished the whole book" - lots of people say this, but I don't agree

Sorry. This doesn't work for me and my borderline OCD personality. I need to go back and edit every chapter as I go, one by one. It works for me, helps orient me, and I like my things "in order".

Plus, why it is assumed that every writer works the same? The reasoning behind this rule appears to be that a writer won't finish a manuscript if they keep going back to edit it.

I disagree. For me. But for others, this rule might work just fine.

3) "The first draft of a book should take no more than three months" (paraphrased) - Stephen King

This rule only sometimes works for me. I've written the first draft in six weeks at times, and a year in others. It depends what else is on my daily schedule at the time. The reasoning behind this "rule" is that the writer loses focus. I understand The King's point, but just can't accomplish this goal every time. It might be best if I did, but then my kids might starve, run around naked for lack of clean clothes, and have to use books as toilet paper because I hadn't gotten to the store in weeks.

What a mess (clogged toilets and all). And what a waste of good books.

Guess I'll stick with my regular schedule. Plus, I know I tend to turn into the type of woman described below if I become too wrapped up in making my daily word count.

And that's best avoided, for everyone's sake. :)

4) "Avoid prologues" - Elmore Leonard
Why does everyone hate prologues? I like reading them. To avoid criticism, I don't write them anymore. But I don't understand the prejudice against them. Too bad I'm in the minority.

5) "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue" - Elmore Leonard
This is such a boring rule. Personally, I think it's lame to read 'said', 'said', 'said' over and over again. I like a good 'yelled', 'screamed', or 'whispered'.

Sigh. I'm being whipped into shape, to avoid the scorn of other writers, but I'd bet that many readers don't give one little hoot about this rule.

6) "Never open a book with weather." - Elmore Leonard
What about poor Snoopy?

Just to be ornery, I'm going to violate this rule right here, right now.

Everyone said the tornado did it. The great winds blew down the house, drug him outside, and choked him to death.
But they were wrong.
I was the one who killed my father.

My question is:
What's your favorite/least favorite writing rule?
Please comment below.


  1. I totally agree with the write every day rule. (Breaking it, I mean.) I have four kids. There are days when I get zero writing done.
    Another rule that bugs me is the no saying "I blushed" rule. They're all, "how do you know you're blushing if you can't see your face?" But you can say, "my cheeks warm" apparently. If you can feel it happening, that's how you know! How do you know you're smiling? Or furrowing your brows? You feel it. Lol.

    1. Good points! I agree with you. Sometimes I wonder if at least some of these "writing rules" are just trends. For example, anytime I go back to reading American Lit 101 or British Lit 101 classics, I'm reminded that longer paragraphs, sentences, and descriptions of the indoor/outdoor environments used to be the norm. Now you'd get blasted for them.

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  3. I don't understand the hate on prologues either. On dialogue tags - yes, 'said' constantly is boring. A tag like 'yelled' or 'whispered' is good for a change of pace, but try to avoid a tag that 'explains' the dialogue. Those are the weak ones :)

    1. I have a feeling I'll learn a great deal more writing lessons from you, my friend, than you will from me. :)