Writing is an inexact craft. You’re expected to follow the rules, but each genre and market has its own subjective, unwritten, rulebook. To create order out of chaos, I’ve boiled the inexactness down to my own Book Of Shadows, and find myself in each project returning to one or more of five writing maxims.
Little Thing’s Mean A Lot
Technical errors can be forgiven. Editors exist to deal with adverbial clauses and the placement of semicolons. Howling typos and misplaced apostrophes tell the editor that the writer hasn’t mastered the basics of grammar, and may be deficient in other vitals, like fact-checking or meeting deadlines. Before I hit Send, I read it again, and again, and next morning, read it again.
“I don’t sound like no one,” said a young Elvis Presley when asked who he sounded like. That’s what made him successful. The writer also needs a unique voice. Many times I’ve caught myself mimicking the voice of a favorite author. The literary world already has one Jack Kerouac. It needs its first Me – or You.
I Wish I Hadn’t Written That
Copy that looks great at midnight may look awful the next morning. I’ve imposed a rule, broken only rarely, to let a completed project cool off before I submit it, and more than once saved myself the embarrassment of submitting something wordy or whose tone, on fourth read, was inappropriate for the market.
Forget Some Of What They Taught You In School
English Composition teachers told us to start with a knockout opening paragraph and work towards a socko ending. Well, yes; but if the middle is what I come up with first, I’ll write that and then tackle the beginning. Anything that gets words into a final draft with minimal effort works for me, even though it may not for the writers of English textbooks.
Don’t Be Intimidated
When I joined my first on-line writing groups, I considered everyone present a better writer simply because they belonged to a writing group. Truth is, they’re not, and some will hate you because you wrote the story they never could. When it comes to that, I move on. Life is short, and there’s always other, positive, places to go and new writing friends to make.