Ten Commandments of Writing Fiction

1. Train yourself to write anywhere. If not, you’ll find yourself sacrificing life for writing or not writing at all.

2. Set a minimum daily writing goal and stick with it. Every day ask yourself, “Have I worked today?” If you have, get on with other joys of living.

3. Observe the Sabbath principle. Write six days a week. Rest one. It makes you more disciplined about writing the other six. A lot happens in that Sabbath rest. Ideas breathe and clarify. The rest from words refreshes the mind and body. Using that day off to connect with God, family and friends makes you a better person and a better writer. And you’ll miss your characters so much you can hardly wait to get back to them.

4. Use as few words as possible to get the job done well.

5. Remember that in a novel, story is primary. You can do anything you want, experiment in any way, as long as it serves the story. That’s not to say anything you create without story is invalid, only that it probably isn’t a novel.

6. Avoid clichés. They’re the sign of a lazy writer.

7. Be a diligent observer. Noting someone’s distinctive speaking style, the interaction between two people, or the emotion of an event (poignant or comic) is the treasure house from which writers create.

8. Read voraciously. Reading makes available lifetimes of experiences beyond your own and teaches you how to weave them into your work.

9. Find people you respect as people and writers then help each other hone your craft. It will keep you motivated and disciplined. “Iron sharpens iron.”

10. Writing is a calling carrying with it the responsibilities of truth telling and ministry. In grappling with the guts of life, you will have the opportunity to interact with others who identify with what you’ve created. Be honest. Be humble. Be kind. Be grateful.