Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ten Rules of Writing

A list called “Ten Rules of Writing” was posted on Facebook recently. Like any writer, I thought, “My ten rules would be different.” Perhaps your list would be different still. The exercise in writing mine was fun. It gave me a chance to think about what is important to me in writing. Tomorrow, or next year, I might change my rules in part or in whole. 

  1. A critique is not a character assessment. It is a suggestion for making your piece better. And, if it really is a deliberate “slam,” then, the critique is not about you. It’s about them – the critic. They are trying to balance the chink in their own armor by poking a lance through yours.
  2. There are no mistakes in writing. Like in scientific research, there are only opportunities to rule-out ways that didn’t work, so you can write words that do.
  3. Writing is a deliberate act. You don’t accidently write a novel. It takes time, persistence and effort.
  4. Not all writers use the same writing process – one is not correct and the other wrong. Some don’t know where their story is going, or what will happen next, until they see it on the computer screen in front of them. Some make elaborate outlines and story boards.
    A young boy sat down with me at a book signing and let me know he was a writer too. He began telling me his story that described action over several days and locations. When I asked him how far he has gotten in the writing, he said, “A page and a half. Writing it is boring.” But then, he was about twelve.
  5. Writing is beginning and then beginning again. When you finish typing the last word of your book, realize that it was a good start. Now, you can begin to write the book. The first version was the bones. Now, is the time to flesh-out the skeleton and draw out real characters in your novels, and memorable points in non-fiction books.
  6. It takes longer than you think. Always remember, a thirty minute “fix” of a manuscript will take at least five days. Last week, I decided to cut the size of Lincoln’s Christmas Mouse in half so it would fit into an Operation Christmas Child shoe box. I had written it years ago! It shouldn’t have taken very long. Meanwhile, a week later, it was done again.
  7. Protect your creative energy. Telling the plot of your story to other people before you put it on paper can destroy the urgency to write it. Tell the story to your computer. Then you can create a synopsis to share with others. In writing, that’s called your “elevator speech” – a description of the book that can be expressed to an agent or editor in the time it takes to meet them in the elevator on the first floor and finish it by the time they get off on the seventh.
  8. You are a writer if you write. A vary famous author said, “You aren’t really published unless you’ve signed with a large publishing house.” That is no longer true. There are fewer and fewer book publishers. Even the “famous” guy is now advertising assistance to help indie authors self-publish.
    I told my professor of Beginning Drawing at New Mexico State University, I would love to be an artist. His response, “You’re drawing. You are an artist. You may be a good one or bad one, but you are an artist.” If you write, you’re an author – period.
  9. Promote your own work. If you hire a marketing expert, they’ll ask you what you are doing to promote your work. If you have signed with a publisher, they will ask, “How are you going to promote your work?” Some, especially women, have been taught NOT to tell others about their work – that’s bragging. It is not! It is marketing!
    I talked to Richard Paul Evans last summer about the ease of writing and the difficulty of marketing. He said, “Remember, marketing is part of writing.” You have to do both if you want people to read your books.
  10. Enjoy the whole process: writing, self-editing, cover creation, marketing and book signings. I’m not saying you will be great at all aspects of writing. Hopefully, you are a brilliant writer. The other elements that go into writing fall under one of my self-created motto: “What you do not naturally do, you must deliberately do.” You can learn to self-edit by reading Browne and King’s book. Develop the language of rudimentary layout so you can communicate with your cover designer. Read some good books on book marketing, Jusino’s book comes to mind. Schedule your own book signing. Remember, a signing is not about selling a lot of books. It’s about meeting people and getting your name out there. You can’t have a bad book signing. Create some business-card size promotionals with your book title, ISBN, your name and contact information on them. Pass them out to everyone who attends, those who buy your books and those who have listened to you. It’s all positive—if you believe it is. Believe in yourself if you want others to.

Those were my ten. What are yours?

Doris Gaines Rapp, Ph.D.


Christmas Feathers a short story in a compilation titled Christmases Past

Many other novels and non-fiction books available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Cokesbury and others



Browne, Renni and King, Dave (1993/2004). Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. HarperCollins, New York 

Jusino, Beth. (2014). The Author's Guide to Marketing: Make a Plan That Attracts More Readers and Sells More Books (You May Even Enjoy It). Sharper Words Press. Seattle, WA

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