My rules for writers

A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon Zadie Smith’s Rules for Writers, and, coupled with a conversation I had on Twitter last night, I thought I’d give my own list a go.

For those of you still new to me, here are my credentials: I’ve been seriously writing for publication since I was about fifteen (which is 27 years and pre-internet!), have received at least 300 rejections, had two major writing breaks, and suffer writers block every time I finish a project.

4-book-web-site-picI’ve also had 12 short stories published in small press journals; 19 short stories long-listed, short-listed and placed 3rd, 2nd or 1st in competitions; and three books published by small/indie publishers and one book self-published.

  1. Don’t aspire be the next [insert best-selling author in your genre], be the first you. By the time you’ve read that author’s latest book, and been inspired to write something similar, the industry has moved on to the next big thing. Don’t you want to lead rather than follow?
  2. Don’t expect your first draft to be perfect. Most books go through at least several drafts before they are published. Mine go through many
  3. Don’t be afraid of rejection. I wrote a post about that…
  4. Read, a lot – in your genre, outside of your genre, non-fiction
  5. Don’t force yourself to write if you don’t feel like it. I’ve read a lot of advice that says you should write every day, but it doesn’t work for me, so I don’t do it
  6. In fact, ignore any advice you don’t think will work for you
  7. Know the rules of good grammar, and then break them, if it works in your story
  8. Know the rules of submission etiquette and stick to them. Agents and editors have a preference, for their ease, on how they want to be approached. Don’t give them a reason to reject you before they’ve even read your manuscript. Janet Reid has a lot of advice. Personally, I learnt from Writing Magazine.
  9. Take regular breaks, preferably outside. You don’t want to look pasty in your promotional material
  10. Don’t give up if things don’t go exactly to plan. Think of plans more as a guideline.

Bonus tip: Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy writing, if it causes you misery or heartache or depression more than it brings you joy, consider whether it’s really the path you want to take.

 

What would you add to this list?

 

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Fake News or Chocolate Hob Nobs?

I’ve been sitting on this post, this idea, for a long time. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever post it, but the concept isn’t going away. One of my concerns is that I’m going to delve into politics… But  this isn’t a political post, it’s a grammatical one, a linguistic one.

I hate the term Fake News. It’s meaningless. It’s a catchphrase.

what-you-talkin-bout-willis-quote-1
Also a catchphrase 🙂

In a speech to commemorate Black History Month, Trump said,

“You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago, when somebody said I took the statue out of my office and it turned out that that was fake news. Fake news.”

Wait? What? Turned out? 

No! It didn’t turn out to be anything – things only turn out to be something else if you don’t have personal insight of the event. You can say, “I thought Beyonce was looking a little chubby, and it turns out she’s pregnant,” but you can’t say, “I thought my bedroom was looking really good, and it turns out I tidied it.”

It’s such a passive way to express yourself. (I’m going to completely ignore that he often refers to himself in the third person… that’s a whole different post!)

As you probably know that report was, in this instance, wrong – and the reporter corrected his mistake. Trump could have said,

“But actually, the statue was exactly where it’s been for the last eight years.”

It would have made him sound reasonable and a little more presidential. But the catchphrase won through.

For balance – because this is not a political post – other cries of fake news have proven to be correct, but the term seems to hold a lot of sway, if it’s shouted loudly enough. It’s short enough to just repeat over and over until the reporter/interviewer gives up hope of ever getting an answer.

With a catchphrase, you don’t need to put reason, logic and plausibility into your replies. In fact, you don’t need to put any thought into them. I wish I was a kid right now (and I hope my kids don’t read this!) Conversations with my mum would be so cool.

Mum – “Annalisa, why did you eat the whole packet of Chocolate Hob Nobs?”

Me – *blank stare, waiting for excuse to pop into my head*

Mum – “Your sister said she saw you.”

Me – “Fake news!”

By the way, in the UK, fake news is such an old concept. After all, we had this:

Image result for ate my hamster

Do you have a linguistic pet peeve? Has ‘fake news’ annoyed you too?