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As an almost successful, career writer (I only need to make another $1,000,000 or so to become wealthy from it ), I've learned some important truisms about the craft over the years.  With your permission, I'd like to share some of them with you:

1.  In writing, there are exceptions to every rule, except the one about adhering to submission guidelines. 


2.  Despite what they may say to the contrary, EVERY writer uses an outline. It’s just that, for some, it’s their entire first draft. 


3.  Your writing is never as good, or as bad, as you think. 


4.  If you don’t care about receiving a rejection letter from someone, you shouldn’t have submitted your work there in the first place.


5.  Writing a novel without first studying the craft of writing is like building a house without using a tape measure; it can be done, but the results won’t be anywhere near as good as they might have been.



6.  Books on writing contain secret information that only reveals itself during the second and subsequent readings. 


7.  Running a spelling check on your word processor, does not count as a re-write or revision.


8.  If you don’t back up your files and keep them in a safe place, one day you WILL regret it.


9.  If you can read something you wrote a year ago, and still think it’s perfect, you’re either a fantastic writer, or you haven’t learned much in the past twelve months.
10.  Sorry, as much as you may love American chocolate, British chocolate tastes better.  



Okay, so that last one isn’t about writing.  I figured if you got to here, the chances are you can come up with you own tenth truism.  When you do, let me know.  I’d love to hear it.

PS:  If I've come across at all arrogant or condescending with this post, please accept my apologies.  It certainly wasn't my intent.  I am, of course, much too perfect to be like that, as anyone who knows me personally will no doubt confirm ;)  

See also: Ten MORE important truths every writer should know

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( 55 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 28th, 2009 04:19 pm (UTC)
10) No matter how clean you think that novel is, you need at least one second pair of eyes before subbing it anywhere--there is a point where you stop seeing mistakes. (and typos breed while you sleep)
: )
May. 28th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
Typos breed while they sleep. Excellent. I wish I'd thought of that :)
May. 28th, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)
These make too much sense (except number 10). Stop it, already.
May. 28th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
lol, you wouldn't say that if you'd ever eaten a Galaxy bar ;)
May. 28th, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
10)You are never too good a writer to proofread before showing it to someone else (number 3 -- "you're" should be "your", even if you ARE British. I won't even GO there on the chocolate ;) )
May. 28th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
lol. I wish I could say that was a deliberate mistake, but I can't :(
I shall change it now.

Edited at 2009-05-28 05:31 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - xmurphyjacobsx - May. 28th, 2009 07:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - May. 28th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
May. 28th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
Running a spelling check on your word processor, does not count as a re-write or revision.

LOL. I have to tell my kids that.

And thanks, these are great, and yes, I think every piece needs a length of time between writing and revising for the clarity it brings. As for rejections, I hadn't thought of that ... but yeah, it should matter.
(no subject) - jongibbs - May. 28th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - May. 28th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jongibbs - May. 28th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 28th, 2009 05:10 pm (UTC)
I have to disagree with #1; a friend of mine flouted every guideline that ever existed and got a partial request. There shouldn't be an exception to this rule, but apparently, there is. Blrgh. (And before you ask, he's a good writer but not a great one, so the exception was not made because of his brilliance.)

I do agree, 100%, on the chocolate thing. There is nothing like British chocolate.

Truism # whatever: If you ask for criticism, you WILL get it. Be prepared.
May. 28th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
There's an exception to the rule where there's an exception to every rule, with the exception of the one about following submission guidelines? Say it ain't so :(

I totally agree about the criticism thing too.
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - May. 28th, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - May. 28th, 2009 09:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - May. 28th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - May. 29th, 2009 10:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - May. 29th, 2009 12:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - May. 29th, 2009 03:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - May. 29th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 28th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
I have to agree with this. Even the bit about the chocolate.
May. 28th, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)
I learned the backup lesson the hard way back in the early 90s, when I had to retype 2,500 training requests after my computer died :(
May. 28th, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
A first draft is not an outline. Except when it is. (Though generally, I don't think it is.)

I think the fact that you have to say #7 is very, very sad.

As for chocolate, I'll take Swiss or Belgian over American or British any day.
May. 28th, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC)
Re: #7 Sad but true. Still, I know better now :)

I'll concede your point about chocolate too. Especially truffles :)
(no subject) - xmurphyjacobsx - May. 28th, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - May. 28th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xmurphyjacobsx - May. 28th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - temporus - May. 28th, 2009 08:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - May. 28th, 2009 09:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 28th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC)
#10 Write for yourself; Edit for your readers.

Good list ( especially #8 )
May. 28th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
I like that one, though it's a shame it can't be 'Write for yourself, leave in deliberate mistakes for your readers to spot.' :)
May. 28th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
I will not concede #10 until I taste said Galaxy bar. Please ship one to me immediately.

And while I agree entirely on the submission guidelines, I would like to stress that you shouldn't obsess over the details too much. Some people get in a sweat when it says "3-page synopsis" that is has to be exactly that, 3 pages, no more and no less.

As for typos, do your best but be aware perfection is difficult to attain. The novel that just won the ABNA contest had once glaring typo in that a character named Clare was once refered to as Claire. It still won.

As for #7, I would go even further and say that AFTER running spell check, you need to proof again. If you double click when you should single click, or hold the enter key down a second too long, the spell checker can change something you never meant to change. When it comes to names, in particular, they guess based on phonetics. I once saw a spell checker error produce the name Sandra Day Gonorrhea.

Edited at 2009-05-28 05:43 pm (UTC)
May. 28th, 2009 05:46 pm (UTC)
Wish I could ship you a Galaxy bar. Alas, I haven't tasted one in over a year :(

As for Sandra Day Gonorrhea, I think I went to school with her :)

Edited at 2009-05-28 05:47 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - catephoenix - May. 28th, 2009 05:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - May. 28th, 2009 05:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 28th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
This is excellent stuff, and all so true. Yes, even #10, though I'll take Belgium and Swiss chocolates over British.
May. 28th, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
What is it with you Americans? We let you bail us out of two world wars and this is the thanks we get; Belgium and Swiss chocolate over British? If I didn't agree with you, I'd be quite put out :)
May. 28th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC)
#9 is absolutely true. Usually I can't read anything that was written a month ago.
May. 28th, 2009 07:48 pm (UTC)
It's frustrating as hell, but in a good way :)
May. 28th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
i agree with you on everything here!
haha even #10 although I am American
May. 28th, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC)
IMHO,#10 is the only absolute truism of them all :)
May. 28th, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC)
My husband once sent me a Betty's Bear from Harrogate. Took me a month to actually get the courage to eat the damn thing it was too cute. mind you, once started, it was far too tasty to stop.

However there is a local place here, that sells rather wonderful alcoholic truffles, covered in rich dark chocolate. Although a chocolate truism: Handmade chcolates aren't actually made of hands.
May. 29th, 2009 09:10 am (UTC)
#10. Your writing should stand on its own, without any explanations from the author or any added help
May. 29th, 2009 10:59 am (UTC)
Good one, but shouldn't that be #11? :)
May. 29th, 2009 09:48 am (UTC)
I think you left out a few. Mainly that it's also about 'what you leave out' in your writing. The more you take out, sometimes, the stronger the writing sounds.
May. 29th, 2009 11:01 am (UTC)
Good advice. An agent I queried once suggested something similar. They said, "This might be better if you leave out everything between the first and last words." :(
(no subject) - beigekhakis - May. 29th, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - beigekhakis - May. 29th, 2009 05:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
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