Every writer has personal rules that help them strengthen their writing style. These rules not only reinforce their way of writing but push them to improve their writing as well. If you are sincere about improving your writing, you will start developing your own rules as well. If you don't know what rules to set yourself, I am going to share my writing rules with you so you can get an idea.
Perhaps some of these rules will appeal to you as well!
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1. Set Writing Goals
The first rule is common advice, but still important.
Set a writing goal for the day, or the week, or the month. A writing goal can be anything from writing a short story to writing a full novel. It can be writing 500 words or writing 50,000. Whatever you feel is an attainable writing goal within a certain time frame.
By setting a writing goal, you not only give yourself something to work towards, but you can then start planning on how to achieve this writing goal. You could approach it casually, simply writing as much as you can. You can approach it seriously, setting word-count goals and organizing a writing schedule that will help you reach the goal ahead of time.
I say ‘ahead of time’ because this accounts for unpredictability. You never know what might happen during a day, let alone a week or month. There are so many distractions, possible incidents. You might just feel like taking a break one day and this way you can without having to write double the words the next day.
Not to mention you feel a sense of satisfaction as you make good headway with your writing. Of course, it’s fantastic to reach your goal, but even if something gets in the way, you can be proud of yourself for remaining consistent.
That underlines an important lesson for every writer.
If you work hard and get a lot done, but still fail to reach your goal in time, you should still be happy with all you have done. Even a half-complete draft of a book is better than a book that you’ve barely started.
Setting goals is an important part of my lifestyle, not just writing. Of course, I am not the only one. Setting goals, even simple ones, gives oneself a satisfying feeling once they are accomplished. It’s a feeling that stems from the idea of making good use of one’s time or completing a task that takes one further. That is why this rule, or way of living, is so important for my writing.
2. New Paragraph Every Point/100-ish Words
A rule that isn't so complicated either. Knowing when to start a new paragraph is important no matter what you are writing. It keeps your writing punchy if you start a new paragraph at the right time. In this way, you not only space out your ideas and descriptions, but you add better flow to your writing.
On top of that, you avoid the trap that novice writers make every day. Long paragraphs that go on and on will lead to the reader giving up, or worse, you the writer. Keep your writing neat by starting a new paragraph every time you make a new point. Or, if your point is so large, every hundred-ish words. It looks a lot better and is far more enjoyable to read as well.
Now, a hundred words a paragraph might seem like a lot and you are right. One hundred is a maximum, at least for me. It is rare enough to write so many words in one paragraph anyway, but it does happen. With that said, you can easily write paragraphs that go on for 50 or so words before you start a new one.
Don’t feel that you should push to reach a hundred words every paragraph. Also, don’t worry too much about checking this number either. You will get a good feel for how long a paragraph should be with time, making it a subconscious habit that makes your writing appear a lot easier to read.
The only time this should change is when you are publishing a novel, a work of fiction. In books, fiction is often condensed, only ever breaking up when a scene changes, times passes, dialogue happens or a new chapter starts. As a result, you will have a long ‘paragraph’.
However, when it comes to non-fiction writing, it is far more professional to space your thoughts and information out with clean paragraphing. You will talk about one subject, but when you start another or approach the same subject from a different angle or with a different point, you will start another paragraph.
Of course, you would do the same with writing blog posts. Take this one for example.
Now, this was a rule that I picked up when I started content writing. I learned quickly that potential visitors to my website don’t want to battle through a massive block of text. It is far too easy to lose one’s place when scrolling. When looking at other articles or short stories, I saw this common format and learned why it was used.
Thus, I can easily recommend you decide on a writing format and stick to it. It is better to remain consistent, especially if you plan on creating a blog.
3. List Chapters or Points Before Starting
It all comes down to planning. Whether it is a book or an article, knowing what you will write about next is essential. Having a plan ensures that you avoid dead ends, at least avoid most of them. The same would apply to blog posts. Any writing project large enough can be broken down into smaller pieces that can be challenged one at a time.
Like setting goals, this will give you a sense of accomplishment as you complete each chapter in your book or point in your blog post.
When it comes to books, I have to plan everything out.
Some writers claim they can jump into writing a novel without a plan. Yet, these are the same writers who take several years to write a hundred-thousand-word first draft that needs a rapid rewrite or some serious editing. Not to mention the number of dead-ends that they confronted which needed to be remedied to keep the plot investing and coherent.
To boost productivity, plan your story out. If it is fiction or nonfiction, decide on your chapters and what they will contain. Once you have done that, it all comes down to your creative brilliance to add the content. Proper planning goes a long way, ensuring you get results sooner, not to mention higher the quality as well.
I have made this rule a core part of my writing process. It allows me to tackle larger writing projects with more confidence. My writing improved thanks to this confidence and I am also a lot more productive. If I were to make up a metaphor on the spot, I would say it is easier to eat a steak when you cut it into bite-sized chunks.
Of course, I have also come to enjoy the planning process, especially when it comes to writing novels. It allows me to continue my daydreaming and brainstorming without having to start the book. Dreaming about a book is a lot easier than writing it, but isn’t very productive. Thus, making the dreams a part of the process will certainly boost productivity and get all the ideas out of one’s system before one starts writing.
4. Embrace Variety
I love to experiment with different genres for various reasons. By working with different genres, not only do I improve my perspective, but I keep my interest in writing alive. Variety is the spice of life, so I found it necessary to give my writing life as well. I used to write a short story every day, a different theme each time depending on how I felt. The result was wonderful, but despite that, I had to end the habit.
Of course, I didn’t quite give up on writing short stories. It was too enjoyable of a routine, so I decided to split it up. Writing a random short story on Mondays and creating a scary story series called Dread for Fridays. That way I could keep writing something new every week and still have time to teach and work on larger writing projects.
On the day of writing this article, I have completed close to four hundred short stories in different genres. At least, all the genres I wish to write at some point. From action to adventure, horror to romance, I ensure I never get bored of my work. Not only that, it forces me to go the extra mile and research writing every day as well.
I'm sure that many of you reading this have no interest in writing a short story every day. Yet, I do believe that whether you are a blogger or novelist, you can fit variety into your work. Writers, such as yourself, are creative people who wish to make something great. What is wonderful about this work is that you can convey any emotion in any way you wish.
If you plan to write short stories, I can only support the decision enthusiastically. It has done so much for my writing career, but more than that, it has done a lot of good for my writing. I took advantage of many ideas, tackled many subjects and explored many styles of writing. I can say with confidence that the same will happen to you if you pick up the habit.
As I said, this doesn’t have to only apply to short stories. You can read different genres, or experiment with your writing as you write your novel. There is an opportunity to improve at all times when writing. Find what you struggle with, understand this shortfall and then try to improve upon it.
For example, I might never write a romance novel, but by practising the genre I can better write such scenes in other genres. Thus, when I am writing a scene where the protagonist has a romantic interest, I am better equipped to write the scene.
I recommend this method or habit to every writer. Like any form of art, it is better to work towards perfection than not work towards it, despite it being an endless task.
5. Write For Yourself, Never Pander
An important rule to remember throughout your writing. Once more, if you are writing fiction or non-fiction this applies.
If you are a fiction writer, your story should go the way you want it to. There are many times in the past I felt a story should go a certain way to make it a more mainstream read. Yet, knowing better, I wrote the story in a direction that I wanted it to go. A way that made sense and was satisfying to me.
Yet, many people enjoyed the way it went. Thus, I knew I did the right thing.
The story was much better written the way I wanted it to be written. The quality was greater than it would have been if I decided to pander to the general public. It is this rule that I force myself to remember at all times because my work as a content creator and writing instructor often steers me towards a common way of writing and teaching.
With nonfiction, you will need to teach what you know to your past self. If you approach the general public, you will find your work lacking. Yet, if you put yourself in their shoes, as you once were, you find the questions that need to be answered. The quality of your books will be outstanding because you better understand your past self, thus you better understand the market.
It is very easy to make assumptions about people and more often than not you will be wrong. It is better to stick with what you know, do things your way. Even though it is likely that your work won’t be appreciated as much.
Another great reason for this rule is that it keeps your writing spirit alive.
I speak from experience on this matter. I had another passion before writing; programming. It was something I found exciting and project ideas came to mind as easily as stories. However, to make programming into a career, I took a path that showed me that there is a soul-crushing version to every career. A side where there is money, but there is no enjoyment, no satisfaction and very little of what you are passionate about.
Recognising this danger, I approached writing with a much better mindset.
I wrote for myself and that gave me everything I could need; it still does. By all means, try to improve, develop your writing, but don’t turn it into a chore. Don’t make it into something you hate. Keep that passion at the forefront of your mind, don’t let outside pressures sway you.
6. Don’t Force Characters, Use the Plot
This rule applies to fiction writers. You cannot force your characters on a path. Despite all my best planning for some books and stories, I realized some flaws. The characters would not, realistically, make such decisions as I needed them to. It either didn’t fit their character, or it simply didn’t make sense for them to make that decision in the context of the plot.
I will admit that this can come down to poor planning, something I have done many times in the past. At least I avoid such mistakes more often than not. Yet, there are times when these dead-ends are unavoidable. That leaves me with two clear choices. I could try to salvage the story and steer it in the right direction. It can mean changing various scenes or even starting from the beginning.
The second choice is a bit riskier. I accept the way that things are in the novel, forget about the future chapters I want it to steer towards and instead see where the story takes me. It’s a lot riskier because it can easily lead to a dead-end, as I explained in an earlier point.
The path can lead to an entirely different story than what you had planned, perhaps an unexpected ending. You will be surprised how this can also result in a better story as well, as you still maintain the logic of the story. In which case, it may come down to re-planning the novel from there onwards or seeing where the story leads.
This is another important rule that I established soon in my writing career. In the beginning, I wrote without much thought about where the story was going, I just enjoyed the process. Of course, I felt proud of my work, as I was still new to writing. Yet, I still look back, knowing that it would have been better to salvage the story rather than persist.
Had I planned a plot and used it effectively, my characters would have played their parts a lot better. The story would have been better too, of that there is no doubt.
Now, to better sum up this point; your characters should appear to direct the plot with their actions and decisions, but behind the scenes, your plot is still directing them.
7. Don’t Stop Writing for Too Long
The rule I follow is more a mantra on those off days where I actively avoid writing. The days where interest, as well as inspiration, is lacking.
These days can easily turn into a week, which can then turn into weeks. If I don’t write for a week, it can be difficult to get back into writing. Not all the time though. I might, after a week without writing, approach writing with plenty of energy and inspiration. However, it is far more likely that I will keep up the streak. That I will ignore the writing software and find something else to do.
These are the days I regret. A break day or two is nothing to worry about, but any longer than that and I start beating myself up. That terrible feeling of not being productive with what you enjoy doing sticks and only goes away when you get back into the swing of things. The only problem is getting back to it. It requires far more effort, far more energy.
Like a plane needs to use a lot of its fuel to take off and reach the right altitude before it can level off and start using far less fuel.
That is the final rule in this post and certainly one that can apply to anything, not just writing. To make the most of your time and energy, you need to be consistent in your passion and recognise when it has been too long since it has been tended to. You might find yourself in the same unproductive rut that I find myself in now and then.
My rules and methods developed over time. I took this article from a few years ago, read through it and recalled what kind of writer I was like. I was actively pursuing the goal of writing a story every day, I had just started creating writing courses and was starting to realise the scope of my career.
In that old article, I found rules and methods that I still use today, but slightly different. For this post, I’ve adjusted these rules and methods, including a new one as well. Yet, I am happy that not much has changed since then. I had touched upon the core of my writing process, which I only better understand today.
Of course, this post is also about finding your writing process, your rules, habits and methods.
I hope this look into my process has given you some ideas for your writing process. Perhaps there are some rules that you can agree on. All the same, thank you for reading.
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!