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38 Posts tagged with the drafts tag

Ernest Hemingway famously wrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms anywhere from 39 to 47 times, depending on if you count the fragments of rewrites as a full rewrite or not. For a man with such a sparse writing style, that is a remarkable fact. He spent hours crafting and recrafting an ending, looking for the right words to make the final draft, and perhaps more importantly, find the right words to cut.


The alternative endings remained unread until 2012 when a version of Farewell to Arms was released with the original ending and the others that Hemingway discarded. One can make a reasoned argument that doing such a thing could be construed as a violation of Hemingway's art, but that aside, there is something to be learned from reading the alternative endings, especially if you are a writer.


You can see the emotion explicitly put into the ending, and then over the course of the rewrites, you see the emotional passages eliminated, but somehow leaving the emotional context behind. It's really remarkable and an actual record of the old writing tenet that less is more.


The alternative endings also show how deliberate Hemingway was in his writing. He didn't just sit down and pound out pages on his typewriter. He agonized over every word. Just because he was a literary legend doesn't mean writing came easy to him. He honed his craft and the page earned every word.


Yes, you can overthink and overwrite and spend too much time rewriting, but it's okay to be obsessive about your craft. Take your time and find the right words to use and cut. 

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Rewrite for New Life


The rewriting steps





918 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self-publishing, revisions, writing, drafts, rewriting, writing_advice

If I taught a class in writing, the following would be the outline for my syllabus:


1. Character – The care you take in crafting your characters is probably the most important time and talent you will spend writing. The goal is to create characters with whom your readers will make an emotional connection. That means you need to have more than a passing knowledge of what makes your characters tick. You need to do a deep dive on their background and relationships.


2. Plot – The temptation will be to show off and demonstrate to your readers how clever you are, but resist that temptation. Keep your main plot simple. Limit the number of twists and turns to just a few. Remember, character is what's driving this book. The plot should serve the characters not the other way around.


3. Subplots – This is where I have fun with secondary characters. I give them their own adventures within the story, a strategy that gives them much more depth. I believe it's crucial that your readers not only connect with the main characters but with supporting characters, too.


4. Conflict – There have to be clear stakes for your characters if they don't succeed, and those stakes have to be personal. The potential loss has to be painful and life-altering. Not only will that drive you to be more creative when things get tough, it will draw your readers in even more. The greater the stakes for a character they've connected with, the greater their interest.


5. Endings – You've caused your readers to bond with your characters. Give them an ending that reflects real life. What happens in real life? It goes on. Whatever happened to your main character, life doesn't end when the book does. Give a hint at what's to come next, even if you're not writing a series.  


Why did I share this with you? Am I trying to tell you how to write? No. I want you to do the same. Create a five-topic outline for a syllabus, not because I want you to teach a class, but I want you to be able to identify your own writing philosophy. Once you know that, you'll write with more confidence and approach each project with much more energy and enthusiasm.


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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Your writing philosophy

Your how-to-be-a-novelist syllabus

1,743 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: books, self-publishing, indie, writing, characters, drafts, plot, author_advice, writing_help

The publishing industry has developed word count standards for various genres. In the past, we've talked about those here on this blog. We may have even suggested using the word count totals as guidelines for your novel. My suggestion today will appear to go against that previous suggestion, but hear me out.


When writing your first draft, I would suggest that you not word count watch. Don't curb your creativity in an effort to meet a standard. The first draft is for letting go and letting the passages fly. Having a target word count can add undue stress and slow you down as you try to force creativity. On the first draft, set the target aside and just write.


Too many writers set up roadblocks to first drafts before they even start writing. As I've said many times, your first draft should be bad, so bad that you never want anyone to see it. Use your first draft to get the story from your head to the page. Once you've completed the first draft, the polishing begins.


Now, when you reach the rewrite stage, use the word count target as a guideline again. Cut or expand as necessary. That's what rewrites are for. The standards exist for a reason, and while ignoring them all together is your prerogative, adhering to them helps your book meet the expectations of your genre's reader base. A few thousand words above or below the standard are fine, but anything beyond that and you run the risk of chasing fans of your book's genre away.


To recap, standards such as word counts are good, but not when it comes to writing the first draft.


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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Word Count Paralysis

How to Get Through the First Draft

1,004 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writers, writing, drafts, craft, word_count, writing_tips, writing_help

I recently finished a book that was much more difficult to write than I had anticipated. I had done a lot of preliminary work before I started writing. I selected a target number of chapters I wanted in the book. I did this by examining other books in the genre, and I found that a fairly consistent number kept popping up. No, it's neither a scientific nor a particularly artistic approach, but it gave me an idea of what other authors were doing, which was all I wanted. Next, I wrote a one-sentence description of each chapter, and in most cases, they weren't even complete sentences. I just wanted to build a ladder, of sorts, that defined the action of the book. Following that, I wrote a 50-word description for each chapter. This is where I started fleshing out character and plot. Finally, I increased the description to 250 words per chapter, providing more detail and even some key dialogue.


I essentially wrote a mini-version of the completed book before I wrote the first draft. I thought I'd have an easy time of it once I started writing the actual book. I was wrong. What I did was box myself in. As I wrote and explored the story and characters with my writer's hat on, this detailed outline confined me instead of liberating me.


About a quarter of the way through writing the first draft, I decided to allow myself to break away from the outline--but not completely. I used it as a guideline. The flow of the outline and the first draft were compatible, but the details differed, in some cases, greatly.


Outlines are great, and I will use them in the future. I will avoid overly-detailed outlines, though. They are too restrictive for the writer in me.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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When writing, don't outsmart yourself

The post-draft outline

1,175 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, drafts, revision, writing_advice, writing_practice


I get it. You want success now. You want to sell books by the truckload tomorrow. You want to wake up in the morning and find your name on a best sellers list. You will search the Internet far and wide looking for the magic marketing formula that will put you over the top. Your day job? In the rearview mirror. You want to be a full-time author, not just a weekend writer, a midnight scribe. You want writing to pay the bills.

Here's my advice. Slow down. I've seen too many writers burn themselves out trying to stay one step ahead of the game. Victories are more likely to come in the form of small steps rather than huge leaps in this industry. Your best course of action is to enjoy the journey and not focus on where you're headed. You will get there when you get there.

You are not in a competition with anyone but yourself. Remember that. We tend to look at other authors' successes and wonder, Why not me? Think of a book the same way you think of a viral video. There's usually no amount of manipulation that will force a video to go viral. It happens when the right material finds the right audience and strikes an emotional chord. The same is true with an indie book. It becomes a best seller when it finds the right audience and strikes an emotional chord. That emotional response is what creates a best seller. You can't make that happen.

Your best course of action is to keep writing, keep publishing, and keep your social media outreach in a constant state of growth. Oh, and above all, take pleasure in the journey. Don't burn yourself out trying to reach your destination.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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How to find success





16,158 Views 5 Comments Permalink Tags: book, writers, revisions, writing, drafts, social_media, writing_advice

Free your mind, and the first draft will follow. And once you have your first draft, you'll almost be ready to write your novel. Let me be clear, the first draft of your book is not your book. It's the blueprint for the outline you will use to write the second draft of your novel. That second draft is what you will hone and rewrite until it becomes the file you upload into a publishing system and make available for sale.


If this sounds like a lot of work, that's because it is. I've tried every way you can think of to get around the laborious rewrite process, but it is unavoidable from my standpoint. Is it mandatory? No, of course not, but it is highly recommended. I understand not all writers do it. One of my favorite authors, Erskine Caldwell, famously submitted the first and only draft of his manuscripts for publication.


I've grown to love outlines, and I've found them to be most helpful as a blueprint if I wait and create them after I've completed a first draft. I've come to view the first draft as my very detailed idea. Developing an outline based on that idea only makes sense.


When I say outline, I mean I write a short description of each chapter. That description usually consists of one line describing the character arc in that chapter and another line that explains the story arc of the chapter. Seeing the book in parts helps me see the best way to make it one cohesive unit and give it consistency.


If you've never written off of an outline, I'd urge you to try it--but only after you've written your first draft.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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The Perils of Rewriting

After the First Draft

1,923 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, writers, writing, drafts, outlines

I'll admit it. I do it. When I smell the end of a book I've been working on for weeks or months, I will rush to a conclusion. Writing a book is a long journey that requires hyper-focus and almost inhuman mental stamina. You do more than invest time in a book; you invest your mind, body, and soul to write a coherent and engaging story. In short, it can get rough.


The temptation is to cut corners when you near the end. I mean, you've already devoted tens of thousands of words to this masterpiece you're writing. Will skipping a detail here and there over the next couple of thousand words really make that big of a difference? The obvious answer to this question is, yes, of course it will. Speeding to finish leaves room for mistakes, and it shows an indifference to those for whom you are most responsible--your characters.


Here's my advice if you find yourself getting closer to the end. Stop writing. Take a break from the project for a few days. Do your best to distract yourself from the story. Have some fun. Catch up on some sleep. At the end of the second or third day, print out a copy of your manuscript, find a secluded spot and read it, aloud if possible. Read it all the way through and then outline the conclusion. Make it crystal clear what you want to accomplish with the closing pages. Remind yourself what your story is about from a fresh perspective.


Then write those final pages, and commit yourself to making them even better with rewrites.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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A Satisfactory Ending

When Do You Know The Ending?

3,075 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, publishing, writing, drafts, rewrites, ending, author_tips, story_writing

I once hated the most crucial aspect of writing a book: rewriting a book. Writing a book is a huge investment of time, and it also requires a significant emotional investment. I mean we authors are experiencing many different lives going through conflict after conflict. That kind of thing takes its toll. When I finished a first draft, the last thing I wanted to do was reshape the manuscript.


But as the years (now decades) have passed, rewriting has become my favorite part of writing a book. For one thing, the knowledge going in to a project that mistakes will be corrected in rewrites is so freeing. It helps take a little bit of the sting of perfection out of the first draft. Not only do I not mind if there are holes in a book after the first writing, I happily expect them.


Another thing I've realized is, in a very internal way, I create relationships with these imaginary characters that I think up in my head. We spend hours, days, weeks, months together. Rewriting a book allows me to get to know them better. It allows me to recognize why they were so special to me and helps me dive deeper into their strengths and flaws. It gives me the opportunity to give them depth.


The final thing that has helped me to embrace rewriting is the appreciation I have for a challenge. To essentially rethink parts of a story that took me so long to write is a real challenge that pushes me to develop as an artist.


Rewriting is an opportunity to relax, reconnect, and rethink. How can I not embrace it?


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Use Two Brains for Writing and Rewriting

AAUGH! Rewrites!

5,378 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, writers, revisions, writing, characters, drafts, writing_process, craft

You write with passion. You rewrite with purpose. That is to say, your first draft is spun with reckless abandon. The words click onto the page as fast as you can tap your fingers across the keyboard. They are delivered from a place that is located deep within the right hemisphere of your brain. You write what you see. You don't think about what you write. Rewriting? Not so much.


The left hemisphere of your old grey matter gets involved during rewrites and starts to apply logic to the free flow of thought that had created such a beautiful, wandering mess. Your top priority during rewrites is to keep everything that has a purpose in the story. Everything else, no matter how well written, must go.


While all the elements of a story are interconnected, as you rewrite, you might want to give each chapter a "Purpose Rating" and grade each element separately on a scale from one to five. Anything that gets less than a three should be cut.


Establish your "Purpose Rating" by considering these elements:


  • Plot purpose: Does the material move the plot forward or shed light on certain story elements that solidify the foundation of the plot?

  • Character purpose: Does the material give relevant insight into aspects of character? Does it give your character depth that steers away from clichés? Does it provide a compelling piece of character development that is unexpected and new, without being distracting?

  • Setting purpose: Does the material set the proper mood? Does it paint a picture that fits the theme and genre of your story? Does it break the rules without disrupting the story?

  • Dialogue purpose: Is the material necessary? Some dialogue is used as an "exploratory" device. Meaning, when it was first written it may have been connective tissue for an upcoming subplot or character revelation. In a lot of cases, those future elements either never materialize or are eliminated. Be on the lookout for these holes.

  • Subplot Purpose: Is your subplot a minor detour from the story or a complete diversion? If it's too far removed from the plot, it's doing more harm than good.

You will find that rewriting is a much harder process than writing. It should be. You're applying logic to an artistic endeavor. You have to be ruthless in your cuts. Applying a "Purpose Rating" may help you look at your story more objectively.   


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.



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Two Mistakes Indie Authors Should Avoid

The Purpose of Subplots

7,810 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, writers, setting, writing, characters, drafts, plot, dialogue, rewriting, writing_help, subplot

For an upcoming release, I used a fairly large group of beta readers before my final round of rewrites. Now, the dangerous thing about using beta readers is that you're selecting readers who are fans of your previous books. In the wrong environment, these readers may be reluctant to give you their honest opinions in an effort to stay in your good graces. So, I decided to give this group of beta readers the ability to provide feedback anonymously. I set up a survey with 13 elements of the book that they could rate on a scale of 1 to 5. I also gave them the option to leave a comment on each element they were asked to rate. In addition, they could leave a comment at the end of the survey to give their overall impression of the book.


This system worked beautifully. I got a lot of constructive feedback that helped tremendously during the final round of rewrites. The key for me was to know what needed to be addressed. Of the 13 areas, eight would only apply to my story, but five could be used for almost any book. I'll share them here, and I invite you to use them should you decide to use this method with beta readers.


  1. Character: Please rate main and secondary characters as a whole. (I went on to describe my style of revealing character)

  2. Plot: Besides being the catalyst for action and dialog, the plot has to be worth investing time in and has to be delivered in a compelling manner. Given all that, how would you rate the execution of the plot?

  3. Setting: The setting is a small fictional Southern town at the base of an unknown mountain range in Tennessee. Various other communities featured in the book are located on the slopes of those mountains. The author attempted to establish a ruggedness and sense of isolation both in the terrain and through the secondary characters of these small communities. Based on these criteria, how would you rate the setting of this book?

  4. The Final Conflict: The final conflict takes place in?(a location specific to my story). At the conclusion of this scene, readers should not have any remaining questions about the main plot: who was involved, the extent of the crime committed, and the plan to address it moving forward, etc. Based on these criteria, how would you rank the final conflict?

  5. The Ending: How would you rank the ending?


Together with the other eight questions in the survey, I was able to address problem areas. Having so much input before the release of a book has really set me at ease. I'm usually a bundle of nerves just before a book goes live, but now I'm more confident than I've ever been about a new book. And, I wouldn't feel this way without my beta readers.



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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.




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Fix It in Rewrites

Thank the People Who Help You

4,613 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, self-publishing, readers, setting, writing, story, characters, drafts, plot, reading, craft, social_media, author_advice, writintg_tips

The Distraction Fast

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Oct 27, 2014

Let's face it: NaNoWriMo gobbles up your free time. Sure, there may be time to squeeze in an episode of The Walking Dead, but there's absolutely no time for anything else. Okay, I forgot about the release of Mockingjay on November 21. You have to take time out to go see that. You're only human. And, you know what, I completely forgot about watching all those cat videos on YouTube. We all need our daily cat video fix. So, by all means, get those in too. But there's absolutely no other way you should be spending your free time other than writing…unless you want to post 80 pictures of your breakfast on Instagram. People need to see that. On second thought, given the enormous amount of distractions out there, I don't see how you're going to be able to write 50,000 words in 30 days.


Here's a crazy thought: Why not just forgo those distractions during the 30-day writing marathon? Set them aside and get back to them when December rolls around. Call it a distraction fast. Cut out the TV watching, the movie going, and the nonessential social media activity. The only essential social media activity is your regular NaNoWriMo status update. The one thing I wouldn't give up is the time you spend with real live human beings in a non-virtual setting. Human contact is essential to the writing process so make time to be with the people in your life.


November means one thing: You write. You write like you've never written before. You write like a fiend. There is no time for distractions.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Fix It in Rewrites

How to Write a Novel in a Month

2,354 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, writers, writing, nanowrimo, drafts, national_novel_writing_month, craft, rewrites, writing_tips, writing_advice

My upstairs neighbor Alexandra, who is a big fan of my books, recently read one of my newest titles, Cassidy Lane. She told me she loved it, but she'd also lost track of how many times in the story Cassidy "walked home slowly." I thanked her for her honesty because I hadn't noticed my tendency to overuse that phrase.


Neither had the developmental editor.


Or the copyeditor.


Or the proofreader.


But my neighbor had, and that's what matters, right?




Lesson learned.


We all have our pet phrases in both the spoken and written word, and we will always have them. The key to growing as an author is to identify what they are, then either A) stop using them so much, or B) use the "find" feature in Microsoft Word to replace them with something else. My friend Alberto, who loves to read early drafts of my books, once pointed out how often my protagonist "bit her lip." Now when I'm tempted to use that expression, I hold back. (Apparently I've moved on to "walked home slowly.")


What do you do if you aren't even aware of your pet phrases? This is where your friends and beta readers can help you. I know from personal experience that friends often want to help out, but they admittedly don't have the skill set to provide the type of constructive feedback you need. Or they don't want to hurt your feelings by being critical of your work. However, many of those same people would be delighted to read your manuscript with an eye for over usage of particular phrases.


My neighbor is the perfect example of this type of reader. Perhaps I will email her the draft of my next book, then walk home slowly to my apartment.


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor. She is the award-winning author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind, Chocolate for Two, Cassidy Lane, and Katwalk. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at


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Apostrophes Indicate Possession, Not Plural

Affect vs. Effect

5,133 Views 7 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, writers, writing, drafts, craft, writing_tips, plot_development, writing_help

I'm not always a great story planner. More times than I care to admit, I just write without a formal outline or even a specific trajectory for a story. I just follow the creative mojo percolating in my gray matter. In perhaps the greatest example of an oxymoron, here is my plan for writing without a plan.


  • Meditate - Before you sit down to write, dedicate 20 minutes to quietly ruminate over the story. Limit the amount of light in the room. Find a comfortable chair. Close your eyes, breathe in deeply, and focus on one element of the story in your mind's eye. Don't force an outcome or direction. Let your imagination take over. Things may get wild and go completely off track, but that's okay. You're not committing anything to paper. You're just looking for glimpses of logic in a storm of creative thought.


  • Journal the chaos - Keep a notebook and pen next to your computer (or have an extra notebook if you write your first draft by hand). This notebook is your story journal. Since you're writing without a plan, you want to track all the comings and goings of characters and plot twists. A quick and concise reference of what you've already written can help you keep things moving along a consistent arch. Just because you don't know where you're ultimately going with a story doesn't mean you shouldn't keep track of where you've been.


  • Leave things undone - This is the Hemingway method of writing. You should end your writing not knowing what's going to happen next. Don't give into the temptation to write until you can't contribute another thought to the story for the day. Leave when the thoughts are still anxious to jump onto the page. This will give you the perfect element of story to meditate on the next day and give birth to that storm of creative thought.


This is what works for me when it comes to writing without a plan. If you have a plan for not planning, I'd love to hear it.



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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Organized or Unorganized?

Increase Your Productivity with Interval Writing

6,589 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, publishing, writing, story, fiction, drafts, craft, writer's_block

I'm in the early stages of writing a new book. To date, I have written about 12,000 words of a planned total of 100,000 words. I'm going to give you a brutal assessment of the work I've done so far: It's horrible. The main character is flat, the villain is over the top, and the setting isn't really that well developed.



But here's the thing: I don't care. My goal at this stage is to get to the 100,000 words mark with as few distractions a possible. The biggest distraction I encounter when writing a novel is that little voice in my head that constantly asks, "What on earth are you doing?" And for kicks, it chimes in with a "If anyone ever sees this, your career is over."



Every time my inner voice speaks up, I reply with "I don't care." I say it so many times within the confines of my bald head that it's become my writing mantra. "I don't care. I don't care. I don't care." The truth is no one will ever see this version of my book. I won't be judged by anyone outside of my own internal imaginary critic. My inner voice will try to destroy my ability to sally forth. When I get to the rewriting stage, I'll sing a different tune, but now is not the time to even think about how I'm going to fix this mess. Now is the time to make this mess.



I invite you to borrow my mantra. Use it every time your own inner critic attempts to halt the progress of your first draft. Shout it loudly if you must and shout it proudly. I don't care!




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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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How to Get Through the First Draft

Writing Tip: When You Get Stuck, Use ALL CAPS and Move On

3,532 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: books, editing, author, writers, publishing, revisions, writing, drafts, beginning, rewriting, writing_stages

Make Your Own Rules

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jun 4, 2014

Here are some of my rules for writing:


  1. The first line of a novel should be short, the shorter the better.
  2. Warts are much more interesting than beauty marks. The more flaws the character has the more I like him or her.
  3. No character is safe from tragedy, and no character owns all the good fortune.
  4. Keep yourself out of the story as much as possible. When a character shares some of your personal views, it's only because it serves the story, not because you are trying to make a point.
  5. Make your own rules.



That last rule is the only one you should follow of the ones I've listed. I see authors of note divulging their personal writing rules from time to time, and I find them all fascinating. I like to see how other writers go about creating fictional worlds. It's educational, and there are times I will see something that I want to incorporate into my own writing philosophy. But, I don't force a rule at the expense of my own creative process.



Rules are just that, instruments for tapping into that creative spirit residing within each and every author. For me to think that my rules can fulfill the requirements of inspiring your creative center is foolish. These guidelines I follow are what get my motor started. That doesn't mean you can't learn from the way I do things or any other writer for that matter. Just don't ditch what works for you because other authors don't follow your path.



So, what is your path? List your top five rules for writing.



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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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My Writing Rules, Which You are Free to Ignore      

Be a Rule-breaker

2,671 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, drafts, writing_process, craft, creative_writing, writing_rules
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