8 “Rules” of writing that I subscribe to
1. Grammar doesn’t have to be totally flawless.
See: the title of this blog post. I know that to be grammatically correct, I should’ve written ‘to which I subscribe’. But in the long run, does it matter?
There are some rules of grammar that you should adhere to, like their/there/they’re, and so on. But if you think about it, people don’t speak with flawless grammar in everyday life, and it’s fine if your characters don’t speak that way, too. I’m actually going to do another post soon about how to improve your grammar, spelling, etc., if you want to check that out when it’s posted.
2. Practice makes perfect.
The more you write, the more you’ll get to know your own style and you’ll generally improve on your writing skills.
3. It doesn’t matter if your writing sucks.
We all have times of self-doubt. The whole, why am I even wasting my time with this? This is awful. Nobody’s ever going to read this, why am I even bothering? And a lot of the time, it’s not as bad as you feel it is. And sometimes, it’s actually not that great. But so what? Does it even matter? Like I said just one point back, practice makes perfect. Your writing will get better.
You might also like this post to find out about how my first book totally sucked, but why I still love it.
4. Spelling does matter.
Most computers have spellcheck on. Use it.
5. Formatting is pretty irrelevant, with a few exceptions.
Look, if you submit your story to an agent, they might have some guidelines on how they want you to send it in – they might want double spacing, or something. I tend to use Times New Roman size 12, single-spaced, justified. It’s just what I prefer. But if you prefer writing using a program online, with Calibri font size 14, then go for it!
You want to use emails in your book? No problem. How you format them is up to you. Just in italics? In a different font, indented, whatever.
However. Take speech, for example. You need a new speaker to start a new paragraph, and you need to put your dialogue in speech marks (either single or double, doesn’t matter, just be consistent). Your readers need to know what’s going on, who’s speaking, if anyone is speaking. That kind of formatting matters.
6. Write what you’d read (not necessarily what you know).
This is something I’m always telling people whenever I give writing advice or do talks or workshops. I honestly think it just makes you way more passionate about what you’re writing, and much easier to get inspired.
You might also like this post for more on why I say to write what you’d read.
7. Share your work.
(Yes, even if you think it sucks.)
Trust me on this. I’ve read some stories online with a decent storyline but they’re poorly written. I know that The Kissing Booth certainly was no incredible work of literature when I was first posting it online. But people might like it when they read it regardless, and their encouragement (and possibly some constructive criticism) will help you grow as a writer.
You might also like this post on the pros and cons of sharing your story online.
8. And, finally: there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to writing.
YES, I know what you’re going to say. “So why the hell did you title this post about ‘rules’ of writing, Beth?” Thing is, there are things you probably should do – like try to spell accurately, and get the right to/too/two – and things that will help you – like sharing your work and continuing to write.
But at the end of the day, nobody is going to tell you how to write your story. Editors can help you. A friend can give you advice. But nobody will write your story for you.
Nobody is going to tell you that you absolutely cannot start your story with a prologue. They might say it’s not really working out, but it’ll be your choice, ultimately. You write your story however you want. Just enjoy it.