Since advice is usually ignored and rules are routinely broken, I refer to these little pearls as merely “suggestions.”
There is nothing original about this list. It has all been said before by writers much smarter than me. I’ve just arranged things differently, and I keep changing them as the years go by. There’s nothing binding here. All suggestions can be ignored when necessary. I do it all the time. However, I write each day with these habits ingrained. — J.G.
1. DO — WRITE A PAGE EVERY DAY
That’s about 200 words, or 1,000 words a week. Do that for two years and you’ll have a novel that’s long enough.
Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.
2. DON’T — WRITE THE FIRST SCENE UNTIL YOU KNOW THE LAST
This necessitates the use of a dreaded device commonly called an outline. Virtually all writers hate that word. I have yet to meet one
who admits to using an outline.
Plotting takes careful planning. Writers waste years pursuing stories that eventually don’t work.
3. DO — WRITE YOUR ONE PAGE EACH DAY AT THE SAME PLACE AND TIME
Early morning, lunch break, on the train, late at night — it doesn’t matter. Find the extra hour, go to the same place, shut the door.
No exceptions, no excuses.
4. DON’T — WRITE A PROLOGUE
Prologues are usually gimmicks to hook the reader. Avoid them. Plan your story (see No. 2) and start with Chapter 1.
5. DO — USE QUOTATION MARKS WITH DIALOGUE
Please do this. It’s rather basic.
6. DON’T — KEEP A THESAURUS WITHIN REACHING DISTANCE
I know, I know, there’s one at your fingertips.
There are three types of words: (1) words we know; (2) words we should know; (3) words nobody knows. Forget those in the third category
and use restraint with those in the second.
A common mistake by fledgling authors is using jaw-breaking vocabulary. It’s frustrating and phony.
7. DO — READ EACH SENTENCE AT LEAST THREE TIMES IN SEARCH OF WORDS TO CUT
Most writers use too many words, and why not? We have unlimited space and few constraints.
8. DON’T — INTRODUCE 20 CHARACTERS IN THE FIRST CHAPTER
Another rookie mistake. Your readers are eager to get started. Don’t bombard them with a barrage of names from four generations of the same family. Five names are enough to get started.