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10 Vices of Writing

I’m reluctant to call these rules since sticking rules or laws to any art form has never seemed right to me, but for me at least these are words to live (and write) by, so there you go.
Please remember, however, that the following points are my own observations, and are not intended to be professional advice. They are how I do things, not how you need to do things.
1) Have fun!
The main thing to consider when writing is to enjoy it! If the writer isn’t feeling it, it will reflect in the writing, and that’s never worth it.
2) Write for yourself, not for us.

This might seem pretty logical at first, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, writing casually, it’s that this is the first ‘rule’ that jumps out the window for me. I start writing for myself, then I start wondering about what my readers would prefer, and suddenly things get difficult to put into words.

Don’t think about what we want to read. Write something you’re excited about, and it’ll show in your writing.

3) Write a little everyday.

I know that not everyone has the time to write for hours each day, but it’s not always necessary. If you can’t make the time to write twenty pages today – we all have other responsibilies, after all – only write the one. Or half of one. Writing a hundred words a day is better than not getting anywhere at all, and it’ll help you stay focused on your story.

4) Plan ahead.

My first book had many flaws, but one of its many issues was that I had no idea what was going to happen and when. I got stuck so often I’m surprised I didn’t give up on the thing sooner.
Not everyone is good at planning ahead, but just knowing what your characters are going to do next will help you continue writing.
5) Take a notebook everywhere you go.
Ideas are great, but they don’t always co-operate. It doesn’t have to be a big A4 book you carry around with you, but the next time you’re on the bus and you get the best idea ever you’ll regret not having anything to write on with you. I know a lot of people just use their phones for this, but I’m old-fashioned that way. Honestly, you should see my notebook collection!
6) Don’t force it. Ever.

There’s one specific piece of advice I received in my first year of being a uni student. I was in the darkroom, trying to make this print work, but it just wasn’t happening. A third year student told me that sometimes, it’s just not happening. Forcing it will only get you frustrated and angry with your work, so leave it for the day, do something else, and then come back to it the next day.

I’ve lived by that advice since that day and it’s helped a lot, and has saved me a lot of nerves which would otherwise have died gruesome deaths.

7) Let the story change as you go.

I know I said to plan the whole thing in advance (and it does help!) but being too stubborn isn’t the right way to approach this, either. Yes, you want to have a plan, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let your story evolve! And it’s very likely to evolve as you go, trust me. Let it.

8) Get your grammar right.

And your punctuation. I’ve started reading so many promising stories which I couldn’t continue because the grammar was appalling. And I don’t mean small things, like spelling November with a lower case ‘n’, but everything. Now, not everything has to go wrong in your story for it to become unreadable. Just a few repeated grammatical errors here and there can really make your story unbearably hard to read, no matter how good the actual plot may be. Have you ever read just one paragraph lacking all punctuation? It’s painful.

You also ruin your chances of getting published traditionally if you riddle your text with errors. No one is likely to give your book a chance if it takes them a while to decipher the first sentence.

9) Listen to feedback.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is ignoring feedback. I’ve learned this the hard way. Hopefully you won’t need to. Criticism is a bad word in the minds of most people, and it can be, but constructive criticism is a very good thing and you never turn your nose up at it. When you ask five people to read your book for you and four of them tell you that your punctuation needs work or that several paragraphs in chapter 5 don’t make sense, well, chances are they are right. I understand feeling protective of your book, your baby, but being too protective will take away so many wonderful opportunities.

You are biased when you read over this thing you’ve just spent months writing. No one else will have that same bias. Trust them when they tell you what doesn’t work.

10) Write first, then edit. 

I know it’s difficult at times to do this, and I’m guilty of it more often than I’d like to admit, but the editing can wait. When you write your first draft, don’t worry about whether it sucks or not. Don’t worry about whether you’ve just spelled the same word wrong again. Just focus on writing, and enjoy the process. Once the draft is finished you may edit – once you’ve had a small break from it to distance yourself a little, but before that it can wait. It’s very hard for the Writer to be an Editor while you’re still too close to the story. Get away from it for a while, come back to it, and view every last word critically.

But not before the draft is finished.

What are your vices? Is there anything I haven’t listed which you believe to be important? Please tell me what you think in the comment form below.


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