1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
This link (found on
But I think that critiquing is vital even if it hurts me; it makes me think hard about what I’ve done and how I can make it better. I’m definitely going to take the prologue out, and shove it out to more agents today. I was rejected twice yesterday which is probably some kind of record.
I particularly like “rule” 5. I was having real problems with starting the new novel, and the more I fiddled with the start, the further BACK in time it went – my first instinct was to start it with the Keepers (of the lighthouse) in a boat setting out for the light – but then I wavered and back in time I went, not once but four times… Now I’ve decided to ditch it and stuff them back in the little boat.
Number seven is also pertinent. Critique is valuable, but you have to, at some point, believe in your own work. You can’t please everyone. I have seen writers changing their stories after every critique session, after every agent’s comments. If you do that and continue to do that – in the end the story won’t be the story you set out to write.
I needed this kick in the arse today. Kurt – thank you, sir. I’m going to print these out in big letters and put them over my desk next to Heinlein’s rules for a human being.
I don’t often have such terrible self doubts, so please allow me this wibble of confidence.
I have new babies. Don’t let them die.
ETA: “Psmith in the City” is on the radio. I may have died and gone to heaven.© Copyright 2008 Erastes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Erastes