Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Fourteen Rules Of Writing

 By Kristy McCaffrey

Image by Kristy McCaffrey
Many an author has posted such a list, and there's much good info out there if seeking guidance in the writing arena. I've been at this inscribing thing now for over ten years (more like thirty if you consider my childhood scribbles—yes, they do count), so it goes without saying that I've learned a few things along the way.

Here they are.

—Watch 'Romancing the Stone', a wonderful movie about romance author Joan Wilder. It's incredibly accurate, right down to the sticky notes all over her kitchen reminding her she needs to do this and that. When writing, we writers forget everything.

—I've given up trying to write before I've checked email, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I write in the afternoons and evenings, which pretty much ruins dinner every night.

—Get an iPod to block out the kids and husband. I make playlists for each story, offering me one more avenue to procrastinate on my writing.

—Buy bookshelves to hold research books, but know that it won't matter. You'll still run out of room, so make peace with tomes strewn all over the floor.

—When I'm stuck on a scene, I've found the most effective method is to stop writing and wait for inspiration. Three days later when nothing hits, I return to the computer pissed off and write a scene in frustrated anger. But, hey, I've finally moved forward.
Image by Kristy McCaffrey
—I rewrite any sentence that contains 'lie' or 'lay' because I'm unable to remember the rule and too lazy to look it up.

—I always keep a thesaurus and dictionary handy. My trade is words, and my work is to make 'em count. (By the way, this doesn't count for 'lie' or 'lay'—a loathsome trickery in the English language.)

—Don't name an animal after a color. If you decide to change the name later, a 'search and replace' in Word will make you realize how many times you used the word 'white' within your manuscript (because it will replace all the wrong 'whites'). Now, it becomes apparent that the thesaurus has been neglected.

—I refuse to feel guilt when I use an adverb.

—I have a tendency to put spectacles on my heroines in every first draft, which I must later delete. It's the oldest trick in the book to make my ladies appear 'smart'. Did I mention that I wear glasses?

—I've learned to trust my muse. She's a sneaky little devil, never making things clear until the end of a project. By then I've eaten too much ice cream and moped around believing I'll NEVER make this story work.

Image by Kristy McCaffrey
—I'm a writer, not a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist, and therefore there's no sense dwelling on bad prose (mine or anyone else's). Move on. I can always do better next time. (This is my pep talk after bouts of insecurity and lots of ice cream.)

—I obsess constantly about where to put commas, which has led to more than one restless night. I will edit year-old blog posts if I realize I missed a critical comma. And no, I'm not obsessive-compulsive, hyper-focused, or anal. (I will probably re-edit this post next year...)

—I keep writing until the heart of a story can be excavated. It always exists, and it's my job to clear the dirt and debris so that it can shine. I'm simply a translator of myth and symbolism into something others can enjoy. It's my gift, and my curse. I imagine brain surgeons feel the same way.

So, to recap. Writing is exhilarating, but also crappy. (I can't find 'crappy' in my thesaurus, so have no other word to use. Sorry.) Come join the fun!


  1. I like these and tend to agree on most of the points. I've been known to avoid worse and worst just because it takes some thinking as to which to use and there are always other words I can substitute-- usually ;)

  2. Hi Rain,
    Thanks for stopping by. I've never worried about the use of 'worse' and 'worst'. Now, I have something new to ruminate over. **big laugh**
    Have a wonderful day!!

  3. I enjoyed your post. Some ideas were new, some ideas gave me a chuckle. Some ideas I completely identified with--particularly about the bookcases for the research books.

    1. Hi Robyn,
      Thanks for stopping by!! I just cleaned out my bookshelves today, but I refuse to part with anything remotely related to Old West research. I need more book shelves.

  4. Loved this. Thanks for sharing. - By the way, I once had a dog named Blue! -Eileen

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Eileen! Actually, Blue is a lovely name. :-)