The First Commandment of Writing

I just finished reading a dozen chapters of a book online. It wasn’t bad, merely boring; it read like a synopsis rather than a fleshed out novel. Several people left her comments explaining how to improve her writing, and to each she responded, “This is the way I write.”

She seems to be perfectly content in her little world, writing her little book for her online friends. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, we can all write the way we want. We can mix genres; we can have long rambling discourses and internal monologues; we can show off our dazzling knowledge in great passages of exposition. After all, we are the masters of our story universe.

We can do whatever we please. Unless, of course, we want to be published. If so, there are certain conventions to which we must adhere. The novel must have a recognizable beginning, middle, and end. There must be a protagonist and an antagonist. There must be conflict between the two of them. There must be enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested.

Readers have certain expectations, and they have a right to have them met. Sure, we can write however and whatever we please, but if we want a wide readership, we must consider the reader. And the first commandment of writing is “Thou shalt not bore thy reader.”

Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire, available from Second Wind Publishing, LLC.

11 Comments

Filed under Pat Bertram, writing

11 responses to “The First Commandment of Writing

  1. amydetrempe

    Some people will never change, no matter what. Which is sad because how can you ever grow. I love the Commandment. Can I hope for 9 more to follow :).

  2. Sounds an excellent commandment. Now I find myself thinking up more… could be a fun discussion.

  3. I must agree that not boring the reader would be rule #1. Failing that, what else really matters?

  4. Great article, Pat. We spend so much time reading on-line for our day-to-day life, it’s a shame that when we take a break to read a bit of fiction via the computer it is rarely satisfying (at least for me). E-publishing frightens me a bit, in that there is no one to regulate what is being offered. I don’t mean censorship, I’m speaking of quality. And when the writer is not willing to take a bit of kind advice…well, more wasted time. I absolutely agree about your commandment!

  5. Thank you all for stopping by. I never considered doing 10 commandments (though it is a logical next step). Maybe another one could be: honor thy grammar and punctuation rules so that you don’t confuse thy reader.

  6. Nice one, Pat… that’s what I’ve been telling clients for years…

  7. June Bourgo

    There is a saying that if you are full cup, you will never learn anything. As much as we do learn, we have to empty our cup every once in awhile, so it can be refilled. Where my writing is concerned, I try to empty my cup all the time. There are so many talented writers out there that can teach me so much. I think it boils down to ego. Constructive criticism is not an attack on your writing ability, but meant to enhance it. Ego has to be put aside. Hopefully, I will always remember what I write here. Love to hear more commandments Pat.

  8. Pingback: Stream of Consciousness Blogging « Bertram’s Blog

  9. christinehusom

    Yes, we must be open to honest, helpful critiques, painful as they can be.

  10. You know it’s posts like this that can easily spur people on to master the path of writing. I found this article to be very informative. I will be coming back here for more reading as I much enjoyed this!

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