Little Things You Should Know: The Eight Commandments of Writing

Posted by Rita Lorraine

Hi Aspiring Writers,
Just stopping by to share something I’ve learned with you. I’ve learned that there are eight basic commandments for writing, and if you can follow these, you’re off to a wonderful start. Read on to find out what they are.

Without further ado, here they are: The Eight Commandments of Writing!


I. Thou Shalt Know for Certain That Thee Has What it Takes

Ask yourself, are you willing to write everyday until you finish your story? Are you willing to edit and re-write it until it’s polished so fine, it shines like the top of the Chrysler Building? And are you willing to hone your craft by attending seminars (money!), and joining associations (more money!), and following blogs (lots of reading!), and joining critique groups (lots of time!) and studying other writers (time AND reading), and querying agents and publishers (skill, time, money and prayer)?

Get the picture?

Be honest with yourself. Do you really, REALLY have what it takes?

II. Thou Shalt Know What Thy Story is About

Can you tell an agent or editor–or even a friend–what your story is about in one or two sentences?

You should know your story so well, you can pitch it in the time it takes to ride in an elevator with an editor or agent (“elevator pitch”). If you need more time than this to explain your masterpiece, you’re in trouble my friend.

III. Thou Shalt Know Thy Characters Like the Back of Thine Hand

You should have an idea who your characters are, why they behave the way they do, where they come from and where they’re trying to go. You should know their ages, fears, loves and all pertinent background information, even if you never reveal it in your story. Otherwise, you’ll be like an explorer without a map. You won’t know where the heck you’re going, or why.

IV. Thou Shalt Know Thy Genre

Be clear about the category you’re writing in. If you say you’re writing nonfiction, write nonfiction; don’t just start making things up and think editors and agents will take you at your word. You’ll have to check and double-check your facts, and perhaps even write an annotated bibliography to go along with it.

Likewise, if you say your book is a MG, don’t submit college reading level material and wonder why you can’t get published.

Make sure you know what you’re talking about when you announce your genre.

V. Thou Shalt Choose a Point-of-View…and Stick to it

Find the POV that’s best for your story and stick to it. Some stories are better told in 1st Person. Some do better in 3rd. Some (though none I’ve ever read) are written in 2nd Person Narrative. Example – “You’re running so hard, you can barely breathe…but you know you can’t stop. To stop means you die.”

Made that up myself. You like???

Whatever your POV, pleeeease make sure you stick to it. I’ve worked with many writers who began their story in one POV (like 1st Person), then shifted to another (like 3rd POV omniscient) without realizing it.

Nothing’s more irritating than to be taunted with a chameleon-like POV. Make up your mind and stick to it.

VI. Thou Shalt Declare Thy Tense, and Never Change it

Pleeeeease decide on a tense…and stick to it. There’s nothing more painful than reading a story that begins in the present tense, then shifts to past tense, then shifts to future…all in the same sentence!

Don’t torture your readers. Get your tense straight.

VII. Thou Shalt Confess Whether Thine Own Story Putteth Thee to Sleep

Okay, let’s say you have all the above issues under control. Your story’s all typed up, and you’re reading it over one more time before you send it to an editor or agent.

But what if your book puts you to sleep?

I read somewhere that you are the best indicator of how exciting your book is. If certain sections of your book catapult you into a yawning jag, your audience will probably yawn in that section, too. If you find yourself thumbing quickly through certain huge chunks of your writing because you don’t feel like reading all that dull, boring detail, it’s a safe bet your audience will find it dull and boring, too.

Hey, if your own writing puts you to sleep, why wouldn’t it put someone else to sleep, too?

If you find your own writing dull and boring, there’s no reason to torment your readers with it.

VIII. Thou Shalt Not Plaigiarize…If Thou Knowest What Be Good for Thee

At a loss for words? Find some helpful writer’s block techniques. But whatever you do, DON’T PLAIGIARIZE.

Plaigiarism is when a writer passes someone else’s words or ideas off as their own. It also means using someone else’s work without crediting the source.

If you are writing a book, make sure your words, phrases and ideas are your own. Period. Because if you steal someone else’s work, in the unforgettable words of Robocop, “There will be…trouble.”

So…that’s it for now. I hope these eight commandments have helped you in your quest to become a writer.

Until next time, best wishes and happy writing.

Rita Lorraine

1 Comment

  • Hi Rita, This is really a great information not only to the beginners but also to the well versed ones too. Hey Two more are to come or this is all LOL, A good presentation in a typical Biblical style. Thanks for sharing. Keep writing.
    Philip Verghese ‘Ariel’
    from knol.

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