Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Maim Someone: Rules for Writing

Since Mike brought up the subject of rules in writing, I've been trying to figure out my own. I thought about them on a plane and in another state. I thought about them in a graveyard at one in the morning with a bleeding shin. I thought about them over taco lunch today and figured out what some of them were:

1) Wear shoes. I can't write anything without shoes. This is not because my office floor is tiled and freezing right now but because I like to feel like I could leap up and, using the desk for support, kick someone in the sternum if I needed to. I like to feel like I could run around in a field in case I need to write about running around in a field. Writing is sort of martial for me, I mean, certainly more martial than domestic, at least when it's going well, and I like to feel a little ready to move.

2) Don't let personal pet phrases leak into dialogue. I'm pretty good about this but occasionally as I edit I'll see something that a character would never say but that I would say. Come on, now, I think at those times. Come on, come on.

3) Pour the action all over the characters. I used to write lyrical chapters wherein people loafed around or chased their thoughts and my narratives went nowhere or at least nowhere interesting or at least nowhere interesting that anyone was going to follow along to. I'm in a phase now where I want as much to happen in as small amount of space as possible. With the last novel I wrote I worried I'd tear too fast through the story and collapse at 35k words but I made it to low 70s and everything feels full and right and I'm looking forward to finding things that don't seem full and filling them out. Puff. (That's me blowing air into them. Good air.)

4) If even remotely appropriate, maim someone. This goes back to number three. I used to be afraid to hurt my characters in any way and nothing felt endangered or important. Now I gouge out eyes, throw bottles, wreck cars. They get fingers cut off and they get mutated. Bad things happen, I mean. Well, they should. They do out here, on this side of the computer screen.


  1. Love it. but I should main SOMEONE, right? (Check the title)

  2. Man!

    Molly, this is why I should have taken you up on the emergency-anytime-grammar phone call offer.