Writers and their favorite rules


Photo courtesy of Nick Youngson, http://nyphotographic.com/

Do you have rules for your writing? I don’t, but after coming across an Authors Publish article on 35 writers’ “Rules for Writing,” I’ve been thinking of creating a list of my own favorite writing rules.

Some of these I’ve heard before, such as Elmore Leonard’s famous, “Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.” If only it were that easy!

Some of these rules are ones I’ve heard and chosen to ignore, such as the advice of Steinbeck (and others) to “never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down.” I mean to simply get the words down, but then I notice a typo or a paragraphing issue and, bam, I’m off editing before I can help myself.

One author rule that I do follow, and religiously, is to read, read, and read some more. In fact, this is probably my favorite writing rule. Why? I have at least two books under way at any given moment, and in recent years, I’ve begun taking notes on every single book I read, the good and the bad. Good books teach me what to do. Bad books teach me what not to do.

And if those aren’t enough rules for you, feel free to check out the rules of these 35 writers for yourself by clicking on the link above. Do you have a favorite writing rule? I’d love to hear it!

The New Yorker’s invisible woman

Over the weekend, I discovered a TED Talk by famed New Yorker copy editor Mary Norris, and I was delighted to find that I could share it here! Some of my favorite lines from her talk:

• “Our purpose is to make the author look good.”

• “If we do our job well, we’re invisible.”

And I wanted to cheer when I learned that she, too, abhors “the singular their,” a usage which gives us sentences like, “Everyone in the vicinity held their breath.” What does Norris say about this use of “their” with a singular antecedent?

• “To give it legitimacy, copy editors call it ‘the singular their,’ as if calling it singular makes it no longer plural. It is my job, when I see it in print, to do my best to eliminate it.”

If you have 10 minutes, I think you’d enjoy watching this talk. And if you do, I’d like to hear your own takeaways!