Tonight is another Tin Pencil meeting. This time I actually did the optional assignment (days in advance, too), which was inspired by the article in the Guardian that asked several writers to share their personal writing rules. Most of the lists weren’t so much rules about the craft of writing, but about the writing lifestyle and positive writing practices. So here are my rules (I’m sure they’ll continue to develop over time, too):

  1. Spend some time everyday alone in the quiet. Let your thoughts rise through the silence.
  2. Even when you’re not writing, think about your story, let your mind wander through the world you’re creating, so that when you finally sit down to write you’ll already be in that space.
  3. Always keep a pen/pencil and a writing journal with you.
  4. Keep an idea box and store away ideas for future stories and characters or random bits of information that inspire you.
  5. Read, read, read… and not just in the genre that you write.
  6. Don’t let research slow you down. Research for your book can easily turn into procrastination for actually writing your book. Get to writing and place-mark the details that need firming up.
  7. Choose your readers cautiously at the early stages of your story. Don’t solicit feedback until you’re really ready to hear it.
  8. Listen carefully to feedback. If you hear the same thing more than once it probably deserves your attention.
  9. Don’t fall in love with your words, be in love with your story. It makes editing less painful.
  10. Know why you’re writing.

And here are my three bonus rules on the craft of writing, which are mostly inspired by my current irritation with The Physick Book of Deliverence Dane, by Katherine Howe ( I haven’t even reached the end yet and there are two instances of dialogue that read “Shhhhhh,” he shushed her):

  1. Create REAL conflict. A character over-reacting to a situation is false conflict.
  2. Give your characters TRUE motivation, real reasons to do what they do and react how they do. Make their actions consistent with their personalities and desires, not just a vehicle for your plot.
  3. The story is the most important ingredient in your book; know where you’re going and why and how you’re going to get there.