My Rules for Writing Fiction


January, 2014

can be

I have seen memes, quotations, and other comments regarding rules for writing. Many are variations on “there are no rules for writing”. Rules that work for one person may not work for another. I have my own rules for writing fiction, and I’d like to share them with you.

I’m not putting myself forward as a shining example of a writer. One does not have to be an outstanding writer to understand these rules.

Rule #1 – The purpose of writing is to engage your readers.

You have to grab your reader’s imagination and not let go. Every sentence needs to contribute to the story in some way, however small. Detailed descriptions of things that don’t advance the story or don’t contribute to the mood of the scene, add nothing (except word count) to the story. Writing superfluous details or dialog just says, “I don’t know how to tell my story.”

Rule #2 – Have respect for your readers.

I will admit that I did not develop this rule until recently. I now reread my work over and over to make sure that it is right. Then I read it over and over again. I’ll never achieve perfection; that’s not my goal. What I won’t do is publish a story that is unpolished or unfinished. Don’t insult your readers by publishing something that isn’t ready to be published. If your manuscript has grammatical errors, typos, spelling errors, punctuation errors, or even factual errors, it isn’t ready for your readers.

When you publish your work, you are responsible for its quality. It isn’t your beta readers who are responsible. Even if you hire a professional editor, YOUR name is on the cover. Your readers will hold you accountable for the quality of your work.

Engage your readers: pull them into the story. Respect your readers: don’t give them unfinished material and expect them to like it.

If you lose readers, you may never get them back.