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Writing Commandments

by bdietrich on April 22, 2013

These aren’t engraved on stone tablets. But I often give some version of this list when speaking to aspiring writers. Writing is challenging intellectually, and challenging psychologically. It takes discipline and persistence. So for what it’s worth…

  1. Good writing is clear thinking. Can you summarize what you think?
  1. Tell the truth. Be honest in your writing.
  1. Be curious. Always ask, ‘Why’?
  1. Be observant and precise. Books can succeed or fail on detail.
  1. Don’t wait to be invited to write. Do it. Push your way in.
  1. Tailor your story for your audience. Who is that? Visualize them.
  1. Don’t preach. Readers want a story, not a sermon.
  1. Teach us. Become a good researcher.
  1. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

10. Be concise. Short and simple is often better. When in doubt, cut it out.

11. Be a good employee of your publisher, not a butthead. Listen. Do what you promise.

12. Work hard. Everyone else is.

13. Define yourself and your genre.

14. Don’t expect overnight success. Develop your backlist and career.

15. Be you, not a half-baked imitation of another author.

16. Roll with it. You’re not in control, life isn’t fair, publishing is in tumult, shit happens, good happens, fate is the hunter, what goes around comes around, life is what happens when you’re making other plans.

17.  Kicked in the teeth? Get up, dust your hands, write another.

18. Be proud of what you’re doing. Care.

19. Go from dreamy fantasy to specific goal to concrete book strategy to daily writing schedule.

20. Give yourself credit and lift a glass. Win or lose, it’s hard work.

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