1. Education
Richard Nordquist

Ten Good Rules for Writers

By April 18, 2011

Follow me on:

  1. The first rule . . . is to have something to say.
    (Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga und Paralipomena, 1851)

  2. Apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.
    (variously attributed to Sinclair Lewis, Mary Heaton Vorse, Ernest Hemingway, Clare Boothe Luce, and others)

  3. Keep your hand moving. When you sit down to write, whether it's for ten minutes or an hour, once you begin, don't stop.
    (Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life. Bantam, 1990)

  4. Keep it simple. Be clear. Think of your reader, not yourself. Cheer up.
    (attributed to Roger Angell)

  5. A good rule for writers: Do not explain overmuch.
    (William Somerset Maugham, A Writer's Notebook. Doubleday, 1948)

  6. Don't trust a brilliant idea unless it survives the hangover.
    (Jimmy Breslin, Saturday Night Live, May 18, 1986)

  7. The main rule of a writer is never to pity your manuscript. If you see something is no good, throw it away and begin again.
    (attributed to Isaac Bashevis Singer)

  8. Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it--wholeheartedly--and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.
    (Arthur Quiller-Couch, On the Art of Writing, 1916)

  9. An excellent rule for writers is this: Condense your article to the last possible point consistent with clearness. Then cut off its head and tail, and serve up the remains with the sauce of good humor.
    (C.A.S. Dwight, "The Religious Press." The Editor, 1897)

  10. Do not pay attention to the rules other people make. . . . They make them for their own protection, and to hell with them.
    (William Saroyan)

More Writers on Writing:


April 18, 2011 at 10:15 am
(1) Irfan says:

Rule number 10 presents the human race, or a section of it, in the darkest manner possible and most probably could do with some reworking on the following lines:

As an aspiring author, when it comes to advice and rules that have become an established part of the literary circles and are attributed to renowned authors past and present, learn to separate the wheat from the chaff, as a moment of weakness can result in material that may fail to prove to be the right advice for any occasion.

April 25, 2011 at 3:24 pm
(2) Frank Cardone says:

Irfan…I heartily recommend a marvelous, unique book on the subject of punctuation: A Dash of Style.

Let’s keep helping each other!

May 8, 2011 at 9:39 pm
(3) mbash says:

Irfan on Saroyan — even here it’s politics!

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