Writing Maxims to Live By, and Break
“There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are.” – Somerset Maugham.
If only there were a Writing Rule Book, but it went missing, along with that Parent Manual 101 I was looking for some years back.
Despite this, there are many well-known writing rules or maxims espoused by everybody, and you’ll find many of these in my own Core Habit posts. Because – many of these maxims do make sense – to a large degree.
Our job, as successful writers is to take these rules, use them when appropriate, but also, with experience, break or change them if we really must.
This post is in the form of an infographic, because I enjoy them.
The Problem with Maxims
Every maxim I give you in the infographic below has been espoused by many authors and writing tutors for years, but all are good subjects to bring up if you want countless opinions debating the pro’s and con’s of each. There are many best-selling authors who have broken writing rules like these to commercial success. Others have broken the same rules, and been rejected by publishers because of it.
BUT – these are only pieces of advice – advice, admittedly, that have a sound basis and have worked for many writers. But advice only. As with all advice, each maxim in the non-existent Writer’s Rule Book, should be taken with a large dosage of salt. Some will work, others won’t for you. Your job is to work out which are core habits for your own writing life.
The Infographic : The Writer’s Rule Book or Writing Maxims
This post was partially inspired by Anne R Allen’s blog post : The Secret Writing Rule Book…And Why to Ignore It, December 2012, and by my own growing collection of writing maxims. Anne’s post is a MUST READ, as she takes apart many of the maxims I personally have problems with.
- Do a search for ‘writer’s maxims’ or ‘writing rules’ and you’ll find plenty more reading:
- Elmore Leonard offers ten, aimed at helping writers avoid what he calls ‘hooptedoodle’.
- Mark Twain, in his satirical essay ‘Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses‘, came up with eighteen.
- George Orwell limited himself to six rules, the last gave this instruction: “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.“
- In 2010, inspired by the New York Times essay ten years earlier in which Elmore Leonard put forth his instructions, The Guardian published an article called “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction.” The editors asked twenty-eight noted writers, including Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, PD James, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ian Rankin, for their writing dos and don’ts. Not everyone had ten, but the article in total provides 228 rules to go with Leonard’s. Some are wise, some witty, and some downright silly. All in all it’s a lot of writing advice.
- The hands I’ve used in various posts in this series comes from Shared Worlds. For the 2013 project Shared Worlds Hand in Hand asked ‘speculative fiction’s finest artists, editors, and writers to write advice on their own hands and send a picture’.
- In N for No No’s of Writing I gave reasons why following rules like most of these can get us into trouble.
This blog post participated in April 2013’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge, along with many other blogs on subjects as diverse as writing, foodie blogs or mummy blogs.
This blog post is part of a themed series or pack on Writer’s Core Habits. I acronym this as WCH or WCHP © . Do a search for these tags, and you will find more in the series.
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