Mark Terry

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Writer's 10 Commandments


October 13, 2010
I got these from a burning bush. Honest.

I. Thou shalt consider the reader. Yes, yes, it's fine to write to entertain yourself, but therein leads self-indulgent unpublishable garbage. Keep the reader in mind.

II. Thou shalt make your main character miserable. Therein lies drama, even in comedy.

III. Thou shalt learn the business. Even if your goal is to become a self-publishing Kindle guru, once the royalties trickle in, you're in business. Figure it out.

IV. Thou shalt complete the work. An incomplete novel manuscript is worthless to anyone except you as a learning exercise. Otherwise it has little if any marketing value. Finish what you start.

V. Thou shalt make thy main character flawed. 'nuff said.

VI. Thou shalt do your research. I'm reading "Painted Ladies" by the late Robert B. Parker. I'm not even sure if he wrote it, it sure feels different. But the lack of research about things like guns and the forensics of bomb making, unfortunately, feels like vintage Parker. Assuming God didn't invent the Internet to primarily make pornography more accessible to everyone, its primary purpose is to provide easy access to information. Use it.

VII. Thou shalt market. Unless you're going straight to Kindle, but otherwise, unless you're writing primarily to amuse yourself, you've got to send your work out to the world to consider. And once published, even self-published, you need to do at least a little marketing.

VIII. Thou shalt grow a thick skin. Because someone, somewhere, is going to say or write something about your work that offends you. Get used to it. I have no intention of telling a surgeon how to do their job or a lawyer or an accountant, and I try not to tell my kids' teachers how to do their jobs (mostly), but everyone wants to tell writers how to do their jobs.

IX. Thou shalt enjoy the process. Because God knows, there's plenty about the business end of writing and publishing that sucks dead bears, you should at least try to enjoy the process of writing. And if you don't, hell, find something else to do.

X. Your turn. You tell me what X is.

21 Comments:

Blogger Jeff Baerveldt said...

X. Though shall put your story/novel on the market no matter how bad you think it is.

For one reason, you need to fight the inner demons, and action is the best way to do that. For another reason, no writer can judge his/her own work. For a third reason, practicing submission makes the process easier. For a fourth reason, rejection letters are merit badges, proving to yourself and others you walk the talk.

6:51 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Ditto Jeff.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Stephen Parrish said...

X. Thou shalt help other writers.

Thank you, Mark, for all the help you've given me.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Jeff & SS--but wouldn't that be VII? Thou shalt market. Your X sounds like an addendum (and I'm not totally sure I agree with you, for what it's worth, but at some point in time you've got to get professional opinions on whether your work is really crap or not, and it's rather hard to tell about your own, by and large, so OK).

9:45 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Stephen,
Good one. And you're welcome.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

X. Thou shalt not give up.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Eric--good one

10:04 AM  
Blogger Jon VanZile said...

I second Stephen ... So mine is technically X.5 The Parrish Corollary.

11:50 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I think it's essential to put everything on the market, especially if it sucks, if only to build the thick skin from rejections you'll need when something really good gets rejected.

I also think a writer is the worst judge of his or her work. (Or maybe that's me. I'm the worst judge.)

7:13 AM  
Blogger L'Aussie said...

I like this. Gives me a kick to get a certain WIP finished!!!!

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Natasha said...

X. Thou shall reread and rewrite faithfully.

Because the art of writing is really the art of rewriting.

7:02 PM  
Anonymous geomurph said...

X. Thou shalt get an editor. Even if (especially if) you're self-publishing, have a second set of eyes on your book. Maybe even a third. Sloppy writing, plot holes, factual errors, grammar mistakes, garbled syntax, and typos can rally turn readers off, but are easily fixed with the services of a good editor. Having an editor clean up behind you doesn't mean you're a bad writer -- it means you're a good one who cares enough about your readers to give them the best book you can.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous B said...

X. Revise.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Patti said...

X. Never believe your own hype.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Patti said...

And NO, I am not referring to anyone -- I speak from personal experience on number X: Never believe your own hype. It's careericide!

7:20 PM  
OpenID premkumarrao said...

Thanks for a comprehensive list. It's interesting that we often spend too much time or attention in one or the other of these "commandments" ignoring the others! The secret of success, it seems to me, is to be able to balance all of them -and keep writing!

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Deciphering Culture said...

Thanks for the needed kick in the ass -- I have way too many unfinished projects. The little ones get sent out, the big ones get put off by more little ones -- a vicious circle.

X. Thou shall remember why you write.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

Thou shalt remember that all rules are made to be broken.

8:34 PM  
Blogger djc said...

X. Though shalt edit, revise, rinse, and repeat.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Kempson Flint said...

X. Thou shalt sharpen thy craft by reading other peoples material, thus making your material more universal.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Lot of good ones here.

6:43 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home