Ten Commandments for Writers or Fiction

           Are we hiding somewhere in our desk drawers or in a “Word” or “WordPerfect” document or on a CD the novel that we once started or perhaps have almost completed?

        If only we had an agent like those of Scott Turow, John Grisham, Danielle Steele, or Joyce Carol Oates, we would be well on our way to fame and fortune.  Or would we?

       It is a rare writer, perhaps most often a reporter in “real life,”  who has not aspired to the status of having written “The Great American” novel.   But perhaps that writer ought to be more aware of the morass of rejections and disappointments that will rise to thwart the dreams and the ambitions of this writer.  The personal history of J. K. Rowling would be a very adequate forewarning.

   Maybe he or she would have more success working up a lengthy biographical memoir.

           In any event, the writer who aspires to popularity and at least a decent income (not discounting the possible good will and satisfaction that might derive from self-publishing) will need to work with an agent or agents,  publishing houses, editors, and so on before seeing his or her work in print and for distribution and sale.

         Nancy Kress, writing in Writer’s Digest in 1996, offered these ten commandments for aspiring writers (I’m not including her “sidebars” appended to these commandments):

I.  Put Thy Work First – Not the Market

II. Thou Shalt Not Take the Names of Thy Editor, Publisher, or Agent in Vain

III. Keep Sacred Thy Work Schedule

IV.  Honor Thy Readers

V.  Thou Shalt Not Kill as an Unnecessary Plot Device

VI.  Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery as an Unnecessary Plot Device

VII. Thou Shalt Not Steal Too Much [including from yourself]

VIII. Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Characters

IX.  Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Editor’s Job

X.  Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Fellow Writer’s Goods

There are many guides, workshops, reference books, and so on for aspiring writers.  And Writer’s Digest continues to be a great source to find and use such resources.

RJR

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3 Responses to “Ten Commandments for Writers or Fiction”

  1. Editor Says:

    Interesting blog post. What would you say was the most important factor?

  2. John Taylor Says:

    Could you recommend any specific resources, books, or other blogs on this specific NLP topic?

  3. Raymond Rundus Says:

    For John Taylor–and those of similar notions–

    As for a writer who keeps a respectable and lively blog, I would recommend Michael Dirda. (I don’t have his cyberspace “handle” within easy reach, but if you “Google” him you ought to find out quite easily.) Dirda, as I recall, has also written a very interesting biographical memoir which would serve as a model for those wishing to write and publish such.

    “Writer’s Digest” has many publications available and also a periodical that can offer much of value.

    If you are an aspiring journalist, I would recommend that you subscribe to (or at least read habitually in your local library) either “American Journalism Review” or “Columbia Journalism Review.”

    While I am a couple of months (as usual) behind in my reading of “The New Yorker,” I would urgently recommend your reading this impeccable and illuminating periodical as much as possible. Read Louis Menand, John McPhee, Alec Wilkinson, Joan Acocella, David Denby, Jeffrey Toobin, Nancy Franklin, Mark Singer, Calvin Trillin, Roger Angell–all those in that great stable of writers who are still writing and contributing on a regular basis.

    Best wishes,

    RJR

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