The Experts Weigh In: Rules for Writing

I thought you might like reading a few of the “Rules for Writing” by some of the great writers. I got a lot of these from various workshops I’ve attended through the years.

Robert Heinlein’s Rules for Writing:

  • You must write.
  • You must finish what you write.
  • You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  • You must put the work on the market.
  • You must keep the work on the market until it is sold



Mark Twain’s Rules for Writing:

  • A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.
  • The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help develop it.
  • The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.
  •  The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.
  • When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.
  • When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.
  • When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a Negro minstrel at the end of it.
  • Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.
  • Events shall be believable; the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.
  • The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.
  • The characters in tale be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.

Writing With Pencil


Kevin’s Eleven: Rules for Writing from Kevin J. Anderson

1. Shut up and write!
Real writers don’t sit around for hours whining about how they’re going to write that
book once they get time
2. Defy the empty page.
Put something down … anything!
3. Dare to be bad.
Just put something on the page, darn it! Even if it’s “insert description here”!
4. Turn off the editor in your head.
Write the scene; edit it once the entire thing is done! If you can’t think of a
word, put “XXX” and fix it later!
5. Try working on different projects at the same time.
Not everyone can, but if you get stuck on one thing, sometimes it helps just to switch
over and do something else. This does NOT mean switching from writing to video games!
Go from writing to editing or proof-reading galley sheets or another project
6. Use every minute.
Write whenever you have a minute to spare; don’t whine that you don’t have the time.
Write on the underground, in the doctor’s office, or while waiting for the children to
finish their piano lessons.
7. Set realistic goals and stick to them.
Not “I am going to write 3 chapters a day” but “I am going to write X sentences or X
pages” — and then hold yourself to that promise before you go to bed!
8. Try different writing methods.
Pen and paper; talking into a recorder; computer; typewriter; whatever works!
9. Create a good writing environment.
This includes a desk/computer set-up that does NOT result in you hunching over and
getting carpel-tunnel syndrome from a poor physical design — in addition to whatever
you need in order to write (Kevin likes rock music; Rebecca likes total quiet).
10. Get inspired.
This does not mean “wait for your muse to smack you upside your head” but “go out and
learn things that will make you want to write.” The more you know about, the more you
can write about convincingly!
11. Know when to stop.
You can’t keep fiddling with the thing forever — send it out!

5 Plotting Tips for More Interesting Scenes

It can be difficult to keep a good plot interesting. How do you find the right balance between action and description? How much tension is enough, and how much is too much? And there’s that point every writer reaches, where everything you put down seems boring and lifeless….


Here are some tips you can use to make things more exciting:

  1. Brainstorm a list of the worst things that could happen to your character – then start making them happen!
  2. Ask “what if?” questions – figure out what would logically happen in each scene – then find a way to make something else happen instead!
  3. Go for emotion – let your character respond to situations with feeling!
  4. Pile on the pressure – does your character have enough on his or her plate? Add something else to the mix!
  5. Add a timetable – there’s nothing quite like a ticking clock to ramp up the tension!

What are some tips you’ve developed over the years to make your scenes more interesting?