Writing Rules (and Why They Suck!)

I hate writing rules and I hate when any writer (or writers) pretends there is some grand and invisible list of rules that all writers (aspiring or otherwise) must follow in order to be considered good at their craft. So, on Episode 68 of The Martin Lastrapes Show Podcast Hour, I decided to share my thoughts on writing rules. I also share "Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing," giving my personal thoughts on each one.

(SPOILER: We agree a lot!)

Here are a few of the topics I covered:

  • The new novel I'm working on
  • My early writing experiences
  • The time I quit writing
  • Writing Rules vs. Writing Principles
  • The film Adaptation
  • The Prologue in Lolita
  • Why you shouldn't bore your reader

Now, here's the thing, I know that in one sentence I said I hate when any writer espouses a set of rules and in the next I said I agree with a lot of Elmore Leonard's rules...but I'm not being contradictory. At least not on purpose. What Leonard calls rules, I would call principles. The difference between a rule and a principle is something I talk about in Episode 68. As a bit of a teaser, here is how "Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing" begins:

Elmore Leonard

1. Never open a book with weather.

If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

How do I feel about Rule #1? Well, you're going to have to listen to Episode 68 to find out...