Do-Over: The Eight Commandments of Writing

Posted by Rita Lorraine


Hi Everybody,
Don’t you just love do-over’s? I do! I wrote this article a few years ago, but it’s as relevant now as it was then, so here’s a do-over of: The Eight Commandments of Writing.

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

Do you have stamina? Are you willing to write everyday until you finish your story? Are you willing to hone your craft by attending seminars, joining associations, following blogs, joining critique groups, studying other writers and being polite to agents and publishers, even when they reject you? Be honest with yourself, because this is what it will take.

II. Thou Shalt Know What Thy Story is About

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 can’t, you’re just not ready, 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 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, who doesn’t know where the heck he’s 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, don’t make things up and think editors will take you at your word. Check and double-check your facts — because they will.

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

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. Whatever your POV, stick to it. I’ve worked with many writers who began their story in one POV then shifted to another without realizing it.

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

There’s nothing more painful than reading a story that begins in the present tense then shifts to past tense and then to future — all in the same sentence!


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

I read somewhere that you are the best indicator of how exciting your book is. If certain sections of your book leave you in a yawning jag, your audience will yawn in that section, too. If you thumb through huge chunks of your own writing because you find it dull and boring, it’s a safe bet your audience will, too.

Hey, if your own writing puts you to sleep, what do you think it’s gonna to do to your readers?

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.”

I hope this do-over of the eight commandments of writing have helped you in your quest to become a writer.

Until next time, best wishes and happy writing.

Rita Lorraine


  • Thank you so very much for taking time to provide such valuable information. Your Chattanooga book reflecting back to the Unsung Heroes from the African American Community is so enlightening to me. I appreciate you. Sincerely, Janet Meacham

    • Rita Lorraine

      Dear Janet,
      Thanks so much for stopping thru and leaving a comment. I’m glad to know this article has helped you, and I’m thrilled that you are enjoying my book, African Americans of Chattanooga. I appreciate readers like you!

      Rita Lorraine

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