Saturday, 23 March 2013

Five pieces of writing advice you should completely ignore

A while back, I put up a post decrying the writing police and all those rules about writing they're constantly posting up in various places all around.

Did it make any difference? Did all of those posts describing the various rules and regulations for writing disappear on the spot? Did it immediately stop the posting of any further advice of this nature?

Of course it didn't. Since then, I've seen lots more posts of this nature. Do this and do that. This is what makes good writing. And so on and so on and so on.

So, in the spirit of 'if you can't beat them, join them', I've decided it's time for me to post my five key rules about writing.

Here we go:
  1. Don't give your books cryptic names that don't help readers make sense out of them. Names like Doodling and Scribbling and Magnus Opum. Let's face it, they're just plain silly.
  2. Don't confuse people by mixing genres - especially adding humour into the mix. Think of fantasy for instance - we all know it's meant to be big and grand and serious. Adding jokes just makes it all sound silly.
  3. Don't write something with broad appeal across age groups. Adults read adult books and kids read kids books. There's no crossover allowed. As for all those grownups reading Harry Potter on the train, well they're obviously a figment of your imagination.
  4. Don't write the things you want to write. There's a whole audience out there. Actually, it's not an audience, it's a market (or so I've been told). You better go and find out exactly what they want to read before you begin writing a word. Maybe you'd better ask each one individually. And there sure are a lot of them, so you'd better get started.
  5. I couldn't think of a fifth rule, but everyone knows rules have to come in multiples of five. You can't have four rules of anything. Nobody's going to pay attention to that. So just to ensure you pay attention to the rules above, I've added this non-existent fifth rule.
There you have it. The five clear, inarguable rules for writing. Now that you've read them, please feel free to completely ignore them.
I know I will.


  1. Of course, if you do disobey all these rules don’t expect to sell many books. I’ve actually no idea how many books you’ve sold but I’ve sold hardly any, a depressingly-small quantity in fact, in fact I gave away more than I sold of my last book and I had a hard time even giving them away which is a crying shame because every review I got was good and even the girl who didn’t like it gave it four stars because she recognised that it was still good.

    Oh, and that fifth rule would be : Don’t have a book cover that doesn’t immediately identify what kind of book it is, i.e. if it a science fiction novel it should have a robot, an alien or a spaceship on the cover even if there are no robots, aliens or spaceships in the book. Books with inkblots on the covers don’t apparently sell unless the words ‘inkblot’ or ‘Rorschach’ are in the title.

  2. Hi Jim,

    How many have I sold. Not as many as I'd have liked - more than I'd ever imagined I would - somewhere in between. I guess it's all about expectations.

    PS - you're doing better than me - at least you know how to spell Rorschach.