Hello. Is it me you’re looking for?

Mea culpa.

Yes, I have been negligent in writing my blog for the past week. I have excuses–anniversary, busy at work–but suffice it to say that I will try to do better.

Today I plan on doing something I have been thinking about for a while, basically since reading the excellent book on writing entitled “Story” by Robert McKee. A few years ago I taught a class on Writing for Publication and feeling somewhat full of myself, I put together my Ten Commandments for Writing (nothing like setting yourself up for a fall). I will share those with you here, specifically because I intend to overhaul those in light of what I have recently read. For better or worse, here they are:

MY TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR WRITING (stated in a loud, deep, echoey voice)

  1. Write what you know.—Write from your experience. People, places, things. Places should be places you have been. The people in your story should be based on those you know—even yourself. Write about jobs and life situations you have experienced.
  1. Write a lot about very little, rather than a little about a lot. Go into detail about something specific, rather than touching lightly on something grand.
  1. Show, don’t tell. Explain through action. Give background through action. Remove the distance between the reader and the story.
  1. A story must have conflict. Without conflict, there is no story.
  1. A story must change—or threaten to change—something or someone.
  1. Write about things that people can identify with. Even the strangest story must be grounded in the common-place conflicts of life.
  1. A common story must have larger-than-life people. A larger-than-life story must have common people.
  1. Here is plot: (1) get your hero up a tree; (2) throw rocks at your hero; (3) get him down.
  1. You cannot write what you cannot see in your head. See first—before you write—so that others can see later.
  2. Make the reader care about the characters. If they don’t care about them, they won’t read the story.

As you can see, these rules are pretty basic and are intended for students just entering the scary world of novel writing or short story writing. But I think there is a little bit of truth in each of them, even though I think I will tweak them in days to come.  I will keep you posted.

2 thoughts on “Hello. Is it me you’re looking for?

  1. The second “commandment” — by the way, nice analogy — has been the hardest to follow. It didn’t take me until a few months before graduating to figure out that I don’t need to write about EVERYTHING (even though “everything” is literally always running through my mind). That’s why my papers were never strong to begin with. Being specific is probably the main thing that I emphasized students to do when they came into the Write Spot seeking help, probably because I knew that was their stump with writing just as it has always been mine. Better to have a small handful of treasure than have a load full of junk.

    I’ve never taken a course from you — which I deeply wish I had the time to do — but you’ve taught me so much about writing through your blog, back before we ever really met. Thank you, Dr. Robinson!

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