You could probably Google ‘Advice to Writers’ and come up with a hundred different hits. I rather like this wonderful post that compiles them all in one spot. Here are the ones I liked best:
Rule #1 – Just Write
This is the only one that cannot be broken. Writers write. The end. If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer. If you want to write and don’t, figure out which part of yourself is preventing you from doing so and kill it with fire or alcohol.
Who said it best: Chuck Wendig – Write like the end is nigh!
Rule #2 – Finish What You Start
You don’t want to be that writer with a folder full of half finished short stories and poems, all pausing in the middle of nowhere like a bridge that suddenly ran out of public funding. If you’re one of those meddling types that just can’t wait to tinker with things, remember, you can’t possibly have a full understanding of a story (and what to fix) until you have the full story.
Who said it best: Pixar – Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
Rule #3 – Read it Out Loud…Better Yet, Read it In Character
I’m surprised more writers don’t mention this because it will reveal so, so, so many flaws, not just in your sentence structure, but in your dialogue as well. People are lazy creatures, so if something is difficult to read aloud, it’s probably not something a character would say. Likewise, read-alouds will expose a variety of things elsewhere. Did you overuse a word? Are your sentences too short? Are they too long? Do you have typos, did you leave words out? Is it just awkward?
Who said it best: I think I did, but Diana Athill does nicely too – Read it aloud to yourself because that’s the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out – they can be got right only by ear).
Rule #4 – Be a Taker-Outer, not a Putter-Inner
The thing about we writers is that we write, and I think most of the time we write too much as opposed to too little. Ask yourself which pieces of information the reader needs and take out the ones they don’t. You might have crafted several rich sentences to describe a table, but does the reader need to know just what kind of table it is, or just that there’s a table present? Likewise, make sure you’re not being unnecessarily verbose. Consolidate words where you can, and eliminate unnecessary modifiers.
Who said it best: Kurt Vonnegut – Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character, or advance the action.
Rule #5 – Find Our What Works For You, and Do That
Even though I think these five rules apply in some way to every writer, each is the master of their own efforts. There will always be thousands of different ways to do this, and none of them are any more right than the others, except whens sales say they are.
Who said it best: Neil Gaiman – The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
That having been said, these are the ones that pertain to me:
Rule #6 – There is a Balance Between Consumption and Production
This one is often listed simply as ‘Read,’ but there is more than one way to tell a story. You don’t short yourself if you watch a movie so long as you understand the differences in how things must be done visually vs. literarily.
Who said it best: Pixar – Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
Rule #7 – Know Every Character’s Agenda, Both Short and Long Term
What does your character want? Do their current actions go with or against that? They’re handy things to keep in mind, especially if you get stuck. Then getting started again becomes less a matter of figuring out something for the character to do and more letting them do what they would naturally.
Who said it best: Kurt Vonnegut – Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
Rule #8 – Live in Your Story
Every character is inevitably going to contain a part of you, even the ones that are nothing like you overall. Use that to understand their actions and motivations, what they’re going to do and why they do it. Ask yourself what they notice in their (your) world, how does that change them?
Who said it best: Jonathan Franzen – Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.
Rule #9 – Your Characters Must be Real People
They must talk like real people, they must act like real people. They must have flaws and make mistakes. They must work for their successes, and sometimes their failures must overwhelm them.
Who said it best: Pixar – Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
Rule #10 – Have Confidence
Every writer thinks their writing is complete shit at some point, but the only way to get better is to keep doing it. Understand which critics have merit and which can go fuck themselves. There will people that you will hate that will give you great advice. Use them, but understand at the end of it all, you are in control
Who said it best: Chuck Wendig – Haters gonna hate.