Monday, 16 April 2012

The Ten Commandments For Writers

Have you lost sight of your plot? Are your characters being oppositional? Is the blank page mocking you?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, it's time to regroup and rejuvenate those writerly cells of yours. I know writerly isn't a word, but it's cute.

Thanks, Charlton. I'll take it from here.
photo credit
 1. Thou shall not use the passive voice. Think action. Don't give the object all the attention, this story is about your characters, damn it!

2. Thou shall not complain about agents/editors on twitter or facebook. Seriously, save the spitting for the coffee shop with your friends. All your public whining makes you sound—well whinny.

3. Thou shall not bore the reader to death with unnecessary description. Why spend three paragraphs describing how your character got from the bedroom to the kitchen? Just write, She went to down the hall to the kitchen.  

4. Thou shall not make characters stare into a mirror and narrate what they look like. The use of dialogue and mannerisms conveys more about the character than their eye color.

5. Thou shall not use stereotypes to create one dimensional characters. "The bad guy" could be any of us on a certain day. Like in real life, everyone sees themselves as the star of their own story. Be aware of this motivation for all of your chacaters.

6. Thou shall not make a love triangle purely to move the plot forward. It's more interesting when the reader has no idea who the author wants to hook up.

7. Thou shall not have everything work out for your MC. Stop being so nice. I know you love them, but it's super boring to read about a character who always has a best friend to help her out. Make her suffer! Kick her while she's down, and then make her clean up the mess.

8. Thou shall not be afraid to use the "C" word. Yup, that's right. CONFLICT. See above.

9. Thou shall not GIVE UP. Overnight success is the result of years of hard work. Writing as a serious business, you have to grow a thick skin and learn to be patient, otherwise you'll be disappointed.

10. Go back and read number nine again, it's worth repeating.

 Any other wise sayings to add?



Ashley Turcotte said...

This one relates to/expands on number 9 (and 10), but Thou shall not expect to get it right on the first try. It can take multiple edits or rewrites before a book is ready to send to agents or editors. It may even take multiple books before you have one that's good enough for publication. Just keep working and learning, and above all, don't give up!

BR Myers said...

Yes to all of the above.

Thanks, Ashley.

Kimberlee Turley said...

Thou shalt not pair green eyes with red hair for the main character unless they are a leprechaun.

Unknown said...

I'll never forget the advice Jay Asher gave on #7 "Chase your characters up trees and then throw rocks at them."

Nice list. ^_^

BR Myers said...

Or be on the front of a cereal box. Nice one.

BR Myers said...

Truly. Let's see them get out of that mess!

Thanks, Angelina.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Really good stuff, I especially like the PROTAGONIST getting themselves out of the jam I put them in, not the boy/girl/K9/besty, the protag. That's why we're reading about them.

BR Myers said...

Take that MC! You have to earn your way to the end.

Thanks, Elias.

Crack You Whip said...

This is awesome! Working on a book now and my problem is more time than anything, but a little bit everything.


BR Myers said...

Hope it helped. Donald Maas is on twitter and gives great tips. Check him out. Thanks for stopping by.

G.M. said...

Nice and usfeul list, Bethany, but I didn't get #6. It implies that you introudce many men into the story from the start, so the reader doesn't know whom the woman will pick. But usually, the number of characters is limited, so the love triangle reveals itself quickly. Best wishes from the city where we don't have Harrods, but being locked overnight at Holt Renfrew isn't bad.

BR Myers said...

Hey, you can never have too many men ;)

I just mean their should be more to the story than who the MC will pick in the end.


David John Griffin said...

Hi Bethany, nice post, thanks. :-)

My writing commandment to add:

"Thou shall not behave like a sulky child and give up creative writing for almost 20 years (like wot I verily did) just because a literary agent "let you go" after only one year."


BR Myers said...

Thanks, David. Nothing happens fast in publishing. Good for you for getting back on the horse.

Good luck with your writing.

David John Griffin said...

Thank you; and good luck with your writing too. :-)

Mary Vettel said...

Good stuff, Bethany. I'd add: Thou shall not query until your MS is truly good and properly finished and read and critiqued by trusted betas who give it the green light. [learned that the hard way]

BR Myers said...

Yes, Mary. So true. We've all been guilty of that one.

Erin Latimer said...

Lol! "The C word" my mouth dropped open until I kept reading.

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