BRIDGET WHELAN writer

August is archive month. Posts from the past

Monday creative writing exercise because it’s a good way to start the week. Rules for Writing

rulesThis week not so much an exercise more of a debate. Lots of writers have developed their own set of rules for writing and in February 2010 The Guardian asked a range of contemporary writers to come up with their own rules. You can read it in full here

The whole article is enjoyable but these two leaped out for me because they seem to offer real insight into the writing experience.

Neil Gaiman

When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

Esther Freud

Trust your reader. Not everything needs to be explained. If you really know something, and breathe life into it, they’ll know it too.


But the rules I quote most frequently to students and seem to me to be the most useful whether you’re writing a newspaper report or 100,000 word blockbuster, are the six that GEORGE ORWELL
developed for “when instinct fails.”

1)  Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

2)  Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3)  If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4)  Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5)  Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday  English equivalent.

6)  Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

My mother would have summed up rules 2 and 4 in one of her favourite phrases – don’t show off.

What do you think – is it possible to have rules for writing?  Have you got a favourite you’d like to share?

photo credit: Gord McKenna via photopin

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4 comments on “Monday creative writing exercise because it’s a good way to start the week. Rules for Writing

  1. emmyleigh
    August 13, 2013

    I think the first rule of writing is Write! It’s easier to edit when you’ve actually got something to edit, so never be put off by thinking it’s not good enough.

  2. bridget whelan
    August 13, 2013

    Spot on…and writing in your head is not the same as writing.

  3. Connie Jensen (@conjensen)
    August 15, 2013

    Don’t get it right, get it written!

    • bridget whelan
      August 15, 2013

      Yes! Second, third and fourth drafts are for getting it right…

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This entry was posted on August 12, 2013 by in Muse and tagged , , , , , , , .
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