When it comes to creative writing, no commandments are carved in stone. Any writer can bend, twist, stretch, crush, or shred any of the rules of writing that have been handed down by mentors and known authors we all want to become.
However, there are still commandments that are common among all writers that to break any of these would be punishable by rejection of publication.
Here are the Ten Commandments every writer must follow.
1. Thou shall take thyself seriously.
This is the most difficult to follow yet the most critical because it deals with yourself as a person and as a writer.
You must say to yourself and show others that writing is part of your life. It is a career. It is not a hobby. It is a profession.
Many struggling writers feel guilty for working so hard but not well-paid enough. Also, they make friends and family members think of writing as a harmless hobby, only to be encouraged if it doesn’t interfere with their family affairs. To make it even worse, these writers don’t prioritize writing as part of their daily lives. So how would other people take you seriously if you yourself are not convinced?
2. Thou shall act like a professional.
If you want to be taken seriously, then act like a professional. It’s like preparing and going through a tough job interview. Prepare your manuscript, follow the standard manuscript format, check for spelling errors, and double-check the publisher’s guidelines regarding query letters. Present yourself like a professional and feel like it. Other people will sense it anyway.
You only learn to be a better writer by actually writing.– Doris Lessing
3. Thou shall write about thy passion.
Write what you like to convey. Don’t follow the bandwagon. Just because films about superheroes are on top these days, you’ll write about superhero fantasies when you’re not even comfortable with the genre.
If you’re into romance, go write a romance novel. If you’re into mysteries and crime fiction, then begin writing one. Start with something you’re passionate about and slowly explore other possibilities once you’re there.
4. Thou shall love the writing process.
There are some people who love to be called “writer” but doesn’t love the process itself. The writing process starts with pre-writing, writing, revision, proofreading & editing, then it ends with publishing. The first three are the hardest stages because it takes much of the writer’s time. The last two could be done by third parties like publishing companies. But for self-published authors, the five stages have to be experienced.
5. Thou shall read a lot.
If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.– Stephen King
Read a lot, not only of your genre but also other genres as well. If you saw something on TV or in the movies, write it down, too. Writers, as artists, should be open to inspiration and learning. Also, this can help us learn to distinguish between good and bad writing over time.
6. Thou shall stick to a schedule.
Have the time to write. Create a writing schedule and stick with it. Perseverance is what makes a true writer different from someone pretending to be a writer.
7. Thou shall be critical of thy work.
Embrace the inner critic in you. Know if you feel that your writing is contrived and predictable then change it right away. As you progress as a writer, your critical eye develops as well. You’ll develop the instinct of what works and what doesn’t. Although this statement counteracts a concept of creativity, you as a writer would know when to put the inner critic on and off.
8. Thou shall develop a thick skin.
Learn how to be rejected and criticized many times and deal with it. Haters gonna hate anyway, so why bother? Always remember that famous writers felt rejected many times before hitting it big.
9. Thou shall trust thy editors.
Most editors are writer mentors and published authors. Maybe a few are frustrated writers, but we’re not talking about them.
In general, editors are there to show you the flaws of your work since you’ve been working too close with it that you haven’t noticed the flaws. You may disagree with your editor but most likely they have your best interest at heart. So think over their suggestions first and see if it works out for your novel or not.
When I was writing Guilty, my editor told me to change the last two chapters because it was too heavy for a drama. I became convinced by his opinion that I revised the last two chapters right away using his suggested ending.
10. Thou shall believe that nothing is certain.
In the entertainment industry, no one knows what may sell or what may not. The trend changes as seasons do. But if you believe in your material, then trust your instincts and go for it. Finish what you’ve done.
So there you have it, the Ten Commandments writers should know by heart. Let it guide your writing ways and lead you to a good publishing deal.