1. Thou shalt not be boring.
2. Put want/desire/longing at the heart of every character. Why? Because want, desire and longing are at the heart of every human being who’s ever sucked down a lungful of air. You and I are walking want machines.
3. Don’t use publication as a form of validation. You don’t have to be published to be a writer. You don’t need permission. You don’t need a teacher, a degree, an editor, an agent. The only thing that separates a writer from a non-writer is … writing.
4. Every character needs a purpose … even side characters (and every side character must want something … See Commandment No. 2).
5. Rewriting — deep, thoughtful rewriting — separates amateurs and pros.
6. Writers and artists have a reputation for being frail and effete. But nothing takes more courage and strength than speaking truth. We can all bullsh**. Not many of us can say what’s honest-to-God happening in our heads. You must write through the fear of judgment because you’re never going to escape it.
7. Give up more than you take on. Time is the single most important commodity we have. You can’t get writing time if you go to every cookout and party you’re invited to (or you watch every episode of … insert whatever the hell’s popular on Netflix right now). Novelist Andrew Shantos tracked every minute it took him to write his debut book. The total? 736 hours. If you take that long, and you spend five hours a week on your book, you’re looking at three years of work.
8. Seek professional advice. An experienced editor is the fastest way to steepen your learning curve. I know I wouldn’t have gotten an agent without hiring (manuscript consultant) Kristina McBride for feedback on my wayward manuscript.
9. Enjoy what you’re writing. Ask yourself, what do I want to read? Write that and nothing else. Let the rest of the world be damned.
10. J.D. Salinger had draft pages of what eventually became The Catcher in the Rye in his uniform when he stormed Normandy during WWII. Do not write for a goal. Write as a way of life.
— Fredrick Marion
A former columnist and staff writer at the Palm Beach Post and Rocky Mount Telegram, Fredrick Marion now writes on napkins, blogs and sidewalks. He earned an English degree from Wright State University, and he’s hard at work on his first children’s novel with representation by The Bent Agency. He also writes a free weekly email newsletter full of writing tips. Subscribe here.