I have been collecting quips and rules about writing that many authors have suggested. Before putting any “writing rule” in a blog, I must note that there is only one rule in writing: Be Entertaining. And even that only applies if you’re writing for others. One excellent book, and several not-so-good ones, that I’ve read were written as a sort of therapy for the writer. The author of those books had only one audience in mind—his or her demons. No rule applies to this type of writer, but for the rest of us, we should
These first quips are my wordings of common sentiments.
1. A book worth banning is a book worth reading
2. Anything is possible if you don’t know what you’re talking about.
3. Capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and, well, you get the point.
4. Characters are the heart and soul of your novel.
5. Compromises are for relationships, not writing.
6. Literary novels are books you want to have read and don’t want to read.
7. The anvil falling out of nowhere onto Wile E. Coyote provides no conflict or suspense. The suspense stems from knowing it’s going to happen from all the earlier toons we’ve seen.
The rules I’m throwing out here are not meant to be blindly followed. But, breaking any rule should be done knowingly and with intent. Often beginning fiction writers will find a kernel of importance in these “rules” that will help.
Rules of Thumb
1. A screenplay should have about 70 scenes and every tenth one, i.e. 8 or so, should be big scenes.
2. Fisticuffs is not conflict. War is not dramatic conflict. Crashes are not action. Speed is not pace. Conflict, action and pace exist only when perceived as such by your characters.
3. For each scene: Does it advance the plot? Does it describe or set character? If neither, delete.
4. It’s not enough for the door to be locked. Someone must not want it open.
5. Treat your manuscript like a bill, as soon as a rejection comes in, send it out to the next prospect.
6. Unusual does not imply fascinating. Surprise does not create suspense, worrying about or anticipating it does.