Rules for writers

 In Diary, News

It’s impossible, I know, to address all the challenges, pitfalls and joys of the writing process in one arbitrary list of rules. And really, the truth is that there are no ‘Rules for Writers’ at all.

Rules for writers: if it works, it works

  1. Be a reader
  2. Don’t wait for inspiration
  3. The contract
  4. Feed your imagination
  5. Finding the plot
  6. Show, don’t tell
  7. Keep a notebook
  8. All writing is rewriting
  9. Watch, Listen, Observe
  10. Passion. Persistence. Patience. Professionalism

The only rule is that whatever works for you, works.

From tackling research to writing the first draft, from characterisation to dialogue, from voice to narrative style, there is no ‘one size fits all’. Each of us, individually, has to find our own way of working, of getting words on the page.

However, in my experience, there are some issues that keep coming up, particularly for first time writers.

When I facilitate creative writing courses, we grapple with the same questions over and over again. Questions about the birth of stories, the nature of inspiration, the slow reveal of characters. Questions about style and dialogue and description. Questions about plot and narrative arc and finding your voice.

And apart from all of these, the thorny issue of ‘How do I find the time?’ is a constant challenge.

I’ve put together some of my thoughts on all these subjects in a series of posts – I hope they’ll be useful if you’re starting on the road to becoming a writer.

My list of ‘rules’ is in no particular order – on any given day, I could reverse the numbers and the impact would remain the same. They’re each significant in their own way.

When I’m asked if there is one rule/observation/truth that is a constant, no matter how much anyone has written – I think there is.

Some things never change.

And that is: all writing is rewriting. Nothing springs fully formed from the writer’s head. All work takes drafting and redrafting, hard graft and craft.

Let me know how you get on – your feedback is welcome.


Photograph: Noel Hillis

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The Years That FollowedCatherine Dunne author - photo Noel Hillis