Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Ten Commandments (Recycled from 2007)

First posted on 12/23/07 at my old blog, but I think it bears repeating:

The Ten Commandments...  Or rather The Ten Writing Commandments, of course. My CP and I were having an e-mail discussion about the 'rules' of writing and how some 'how to' writing books are viewed as writing bibles. Thus I give you...


The Ten Writing Commandments
(in no particular order)

10) Thou shalt not use adverbs.

9) Thou shalt not begin a story with a dream sequence.

8) Thou shalt always 'show' and never 'tell'.

7) Thou shalt not use the word 'that'.

6) Thou shalt attend writers' workshops, conferences, and book fairs at every opportunity.

5) Thou shalt not have a character describe themselves by looking at their own reflection.

4) Thou shalt have many many many people critique your work before submitting.

3) Thou shalt never use cliches.

2) Thou shalt not have unsympathetic main characters.

1) Thou shalt take these commandments seriously.

Okay, so maybe that last one should say 'shalt not'. Unlike the biblical commandments, nothing is carved into stone here. Every one of these rules has been broken, and should be broken depending on what your story needs.

Or in the words of Neil Gaiman (whose wildly popular books are selling like hotcakes, btw): "Write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter."

What are some rules you've heard about that you've broken? Better yet, tell me about some rules bestselling novelists have broken. Those are always fun. =oD

And tell me if I missed any commandments. Who knows, this could be like Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I:

"I bring you these fifteen... (crash)... ten... Ten Commandments!"


  1. I didn't know number 7... Is there a specific reason? I don't know if I use it, but now I'm wondering... (will have to go check later).

    Uhhm, I can't think of any major rules big authors have broken. However, one pet peeve of mine is ending a scene with a character going to sleep with nothing to drag the reader in to the next chapter. I did this once and it has bugged me ever since.

  2. Eh, I think 'that' is one of those words that can be overused. (Or rather I should say: "I think 'that' can be an overused word.") Not that it isn't useful, but it's one of those words to watch.

    And like I said, no rule is unbreakable. Even adverbs have their place. Seriously. ;o)

  3. LOL! "That" is out of style, but it can be a useful word - if used carefully. Hmmm. That goes for any writing rule. :D

    Great post! Linking back to you.