Friday, March 19, 2010

Rules of Writing

The all popular poster with the 12.5 rules of writing. It is around all over the place and even purchase-able on There are a variety of lists available on the internet. Usually, when I see a list of writing rules I shudder because it more often than not involves a bunch of things that I don't agree with. The poster has the most rules I've ever agreed with and here are the good ones:

1.  and 12.5. Write! Okay, it says something else on the first rule but the gist is similar. Writer's write, that is the big non-breakable rule. You can't be a writer if you don't write. And it is bound to get a bit better if you work on it, and write more.

6. This is one I agree with for the most part too. Read. There are times when writing should take precedence over reading but a writer should enjoy reading. I don't understand the people who say they love writing but they hate reading. It doesn't make sense to me. (Yes, I have met people on that say they don't read but they write.)

11. I like this one. Maybe it's because I do this. The erotica genre is one that I started a few years ago on a whim. I wanted just to see if I could do it. Several flash fiction, short stories, one novel and a started novella later, the attempt has proven worth it. Now, I'm trying mystery. It is fun to try something new, something you might not think you can do well.

Let's look at a different list, one that is harder to agree. This is a list on writing rules for epic fantasy. The funny part about this list is that I found it in two different places. One place gives it as a list of what not to do( and the other one gives it as a formula while talking about the different elements and why you shouldn't follow a formula(

Rules/Formula for Epic Fantasy
-Create a bunch of interesting non human characters like orcs, dragons, elves or dwarves of course your hero should be human or nearly human.
-Put them in a fantastical world filled with magic and secret places.
-Open up your novel with something exciting to get the reader hooked.
-Keep the action moving - insert a series of small obstacles that need to be overcome
foreshadow something really big that will happen (won't happen in this novel though -if it ever happens at all).
-Come up with two big things that will happen and when they are resolved they cancel each other out so the plot hasn't advanced at all.
-Make a big lead up to the next novel (promise the moon).
-Repeat steps 3-7 in the next novel.

If you don't recognize some of these then you probably don't write epic fantasy. However, some can go to other types of books. The funny part about this list is that some of the rules make perfect sense while some others are not rules or even a template. Some of the rules to consider:

a. open your novel with something exciting... This is true to a certain sense. The novel should open with something that is going to hook the reader. People may open the book and read the first couple of paragraphs before even buying the book and if you don't grabe them then they won't buy it.

b. keep the action moving and promise the moon. This is true of both series and individual work. If nothing really happens then the plot doesn't move forward, people get bored and put the book down to never pick it up again. And promises are something that writer's are talking about more. The writer is making promises, or questions, throughout the book, but ones that they have to answer in order to not have the reader throwing the book against the wall in anguish.

Ones that are less followable from the epic fantasy list:

a. Non-human characters but with a human main character. It is obvious that some big fantasy books have these but it's also true to have non-human main characters or to have no non-human characters in an epic fantasy book.

b. Come up with two.. that are resolved and cancel each other out. I don't know all that much about pushing along a series and some might list a certain series with this (I still love said series so I don't care what people say on it), but it seems that each book should have a set of conflicts resolved but still have enough conflict for the overall series. And the number, 2, gives away the formula aspect which is not recommended to follow.

Those are just some of the many rules that have been put out on writing. Look them over, shrug, and then get back to writing!


Harley D. Palmer said...

Great post! That is really interesting stuff and I'll have to check it out further as I am a fantasy writer and all that.

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