The Rules of Writing

So in between planning events and workshopping our writing, we of the Haven (and the Rahnd Table writing group that spawned it) get drunk and talk. Usually about words. Recently we’ve started compiling a list of our “writing rules,” the pieces of advice about words that have surfaced the most–or been the most helpful–in our two years of reading and critiquing each others words. The three we’ve singled out so far:


1) Finish your shit.

This one is shamelessly stolen from this fantastic article by Chuck Wendig, and while the rest of the advice on there is also great, that one stuck particularly with us. Or, to put it in the words of a former writing professor: “There is  no good or bad, only finished and unfinished.” You can’t fix what doesn’t exist. Don’t worry about whether it’s right for this publication, or whether anyone will read it, or whether that comma’s in the right place, until your story is complete.

2) Don’t be a pussy.

The best writing takes risks. Not all risks pay off, but more often than not, by taking them, you discover something about the story you would never have seen otherwise. So blow up that chronology, kill off that character, make your protagonist’s life go to hell. The worst thing that happens is that you have to re-write it. The best thing is you’ve discovered the true purpose of your story.

3) Make your reader feel smart.

As a reader, I find nothing more satisfying than when I figure out the twist or solve the mystery just before the characters reveal the answer. When this happens, it’s not because I’m a genius. It’s because the author put the right clues in the right places, and trusted their reader to figure things out. These moments are places readers can engage with the story, and with you as a writer. Rather than giving them all the answers upfront, giving well-placed hints and trusting the reader to take the final leap gives them a level of satisfaction that will keep them coming back to your words.


Of course the internets are chock full of advice for writers–some good, some bad, some oft-repeated, some unique. What pieces of advice have driven you to greatest success? Leave them in the comments if you feel so inspired.

One thought on “The Rules of Writing

  1. Pingback: On controversial words and the implied privilege of language | The Haven

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