10 More Rules for Fiction Writers – Derived from Gurus

Two of the fictional gurus, and books of wisdom. And an ancient laptop.
Two of the fictional gurus, and books of wisdom. And an ancient laptop.
  1. Always start your prologue with the weather.

    What better way to get your juices flowing? Weather—you can see it, feel it, hear it, smell it, even taste it. You don’t want your reader feeling that vague unease, that uncertainty, through the whole book, wondering if your characters are cold or hot, dry or deluged. Put it right there in front, in the prologue, where every reader will read and relish it.

  2. Start your preface with a prologue.

    Remember, the more front matter, the better. And if your front matter has its own front matter, even better than better!

  3. Kill your darlings

    That tour-de-force chapter where you slipped into 2nd person subjunctive omnicience with an Albanian accent?  Or your screaming whisper Hannibal Lecter/Joseph Hergesheimer monologue?  These are examples of what writers, critics, and William Faulkner called “Your Darlings.” Basically, beautiful writings that you love-love-love but that nobody actually wants to read. Kill it! Cut it! Murder it!  Then, when its sufficiently cold and stiffened, beyond all signs of life… Find it.  Get it.  Place it on a stainless-steel mortuary table, the kind with a slight slope and edge channels for liquid drainage. Hoist it toward the skylight, during a raging electrical storm as midnight approaches…  You know the rest.

  4. Bury the lede.

    This is not journalism. Your reader needs a reason to keep reading. If you spill everything in the first paragraph, you destroy the dramatic tension, the suspense. And, “lede” is pronounced like “Leeds”, the city, minus the S. While I’m at it, “lead” is pronounced Led only if it’s a heavy metal. Lead is never pronounced like a metal if it’s a past participle of Lead, the verb, which is pronounced the same as Lede. And LEAD IS NEVER A PAST PARTICIPLE OF LEAD, SO STOP DOING THAT!

  5. Avoid prologues.

    Wait, you say…if we start our preface with a prologue(rule 2), that starts with weather(rule 1), how do we avoid…?  Don’t overthink it. Bestselling authors love prologues. They only tell you not to write them because they know how much readers love them, and they are competitive buggers and want all the sales for themselves, not some upstart newbie author like you. So, by all means avoid prologues.  But be sly about it.  Avoid them by putting them at the end of your book, instead of the beginning.

  6. Are you a pantser?

    You’re doing it wrong. Become a planner. Card is a planner. Sanderson too.

  7. Are you a planner?

    Wrong! Pants! George Saunders says so. King too. Planning your fiction ruins the spontaneity. Thou shalt pants!

  8. Are you neither a pantser or a planner? Wrong!

    Sanderson says try both, but not at the same time. Not possible. And if you’ve somehow misunderstood this whole thread, quietly close the laptop and…put your pants back on.

  9. If all else fails, plan to pants.
  10. These rules are absolute!

    Especially the ones that seem to contradict other ones. And, really double especially, the ones that contradict themselves. We are writers, and we need rules! Double spacers, unite!

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