1.23.2010

Uncle Stevie's Rules for Writing

I'm giving the keynote speech at the Resolutions for Writers Seminar in Anderson, CA, today, and as part of that I'm telling some of the rules for writing that I've learned over the past 35 years.

Yes, I'm once again riding the coattails of Elmore Leonard, whose "rules" you can see at www.elmoreleonard.com. Mine are in addition to his, though there is some overlap, of course. Mostly, it's easier to put the rules here on my blog than it is to screw around with handouts at the conference.

Nothing really new here, but some good reminders:

--Write in scenes, and omit the stuff in between them.
--All drama (and comedy and romance) is conflict.
--Show, don't tell.
--Within scenes and within the overall story timeline: Come in late and get out early.
--Readers love dialogue. Use it lots, but keep it tight.
--Use the five senses and the "five W's and H" in your descriptive writing. Focus on the Telling Detail.
--Don't use two adjectives when one will do.
--Beware the adverb.
--Learn proper punctuation and use it. You're not Cormac McCarthy.
--Don't make the reader figure it out. Make it clear.
--Spend at least as much time on rewrites and polishing as on the first draft.
--Learn your craft and work hard.

If you'd like to hear the speech that goes with that (or any of my other talks), I'm available at reasonable rates for seminars, mystery conferences and bar mitzvahs.

Feel free to add your own rules for writing in the comments.

3 comments:

Hal Johnson said...

One I try to keep in mind is "don't try to write a finished product from the get-go." Or as my friend Alan Rider once told me, "Just accept that your first draft will be crap."

Paul M. Paolini said...

Start each day's writing polishing what was written the previous day as a warm-up to the day's new writing. Works well for me, a philosophical writer, at least.

Phil Fountain said...

What"s wr.ong with m? punctuation# Cor/mac got, nothin* on me<