Now that we've trashed Elmore Leonard's rules (what does he know anyway ;) I'm wondering if people here have their own rules or guidelines for writing?

My main self-imposed rule is kind of one of Elmore Leonard's, guess, I want everythng in my books to be from the point of view of a character and have no authorial voice at all - if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

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I think these are excellent, Reece.
My dialog has to sound like someone would actually talk. Yes, I know, written dialog is an but an imitation of speech, with all the "uhs, duhs, and ers," removed. I mean the cadence and word usage must sound like someone--in fact, like this character--would say it. Possibly ungrammatical, possibly crude, sometimes less than inspiring artistiaclly, but never like someone reading written dialog.

Like John, I also write my scene from the perspective of a specific character. (Unlike John, I lack the skill, discipline, and confidence to keep from occasionally interjecting an authorial presence.) Any thoughts or observations conveyed in those scene must be something the character would think of, or notice. Tony Soprano is not going to notice what color the drapes are. If I need to let the reader know that, someone else has to be the POV character for that scene.

Most important--with a bow toward Jon--I put my ass in the seat at least six days a week. No exceptions. (I leave one day out as a salve to my conscience when life intervenes.)
One of my key rules is to have more than one dramatic question posed for the reader at any given time (save the ending paragraph), more than one reason to turn the page in search of answers.

In a mystery, the novel's primary dramatic question--its spine, its through-line, if you will--might be: "Who murdered So-and-so?" and extend from first chapter to last, but there should also be, without let-up, other dramatic questions to be answered along the way, many with answers just around the corner. A cliff hanger ending to a chapter is one type of dramatic question, but dramatic questions can also be character related. For example: Will the detective with the drinking problem stay on the wagon now that his pet gerbil has committed suicide?
This has worked very well for me. It means that there are several stories going, and possibly several mysteries, some of them quite small.
Is this different in some fundamental way from subplot? It's always good to have an interesting subplot or two cooking along--essential, even.
I use subplots (additional puzzles/crimes), but I also have a secondary, larger plot involving the protagonist's private life.
I guess I lump all of that together under the subplot heading.
Write and keep writing, read obsesively, be interested in everything.
1) Permit myself to write something really crappy. Or stupid—like my short story The Turkey Carol. (3 ghostly turkeys visit a man on Thanksgiving eve in hopes of giving him a life lesson.)

2) Shoot for excellence, not perfection.

3) Don't check email, or go to message boards before ... oops.

If it's immersive, it's working. Exposition, dialogue, plot -- they all matter, but they can be wielded very differently to great effect. My main goal is to get a reader into the page and make them not want to leave, make the page a memorable place they want to return to. So, "read through" is a really important concept to me. If something breaks the flow or doesn't improve the flow, it's gone.

The basic blocking and tackling of plotting is vital. You have to have a plot that is constantly flowing, as well, and an ending that rocks. If the ending is implausible, dull, or leaves too many unanswered questions, that's bad. It should provide a satisfying conclusion to long dramatic arcs and an interesting plot.

Read a printed version at least 3-4 times and edit this heavily, no mercy. I like to have mine printed out in book form with spiral bindings at the local copy shop. Feels and reads like a book, so it seems that problems jump out more and I'm less forgiving than if it feels like manuscript. I go into my reading mode more completely, so problems leap out.

Have fun! If you're not, your readers might sense it. It should be fun!
The best story is no good until it's on paper. Finish it.


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