So far I’ve talked a lot about goals. The 10 Commandments of a Serious Writer are rules which every writer should remember. These rules, if followed, will allow you to reach your goals much more easily. But it’s not just for your current goals-these rules will help you throughout your whole writing life.
1. I Shall Write
Writing is obviously the most important part of being a writer. This commandment is about writing regularly and writing the best that you can. It’s about butt in chair.
2. I Shall Read
It’s not just important for writers to write, it’s also important for writers to read, and not just in their genre. Reading not only expands the mind but it allows you to analyze other writers’ technique and to learn from the masters.
3. I Shall Edit Thoroughly
This means making sure that the story makes sense, that the characters stay in character, and that the plot flows properly. It also includes making sure that you haven’t used a semicolon wrong or missed an apostrophe; it’s not just about story, it’s about grammar. You want to edit it at least partially before you let anyone else see it-even your critique group.
4. I Shall Hear Criticism With an Open Mind
Writers must always be open to criticism. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with every comment somebody makes on your work; but it does mean that you have to seriously consider what they’ve said before you dismiss their opinion. And remember, if four or five people read your work and all agree on something, the one or two who like it are probably wrong.
5. I Shall Always Be Learning
While it is important to hone your craft and to put a large amount of focus on becoming a more skilled writer, it’s also important to learn other things. The best writers don’t just know about writing-they are always going on new adventures and looking for new things. They observe the world around them and take everything in. And they learn all kinds of things, not just about writing but about every aspect of life.
6. I Shall Push My Boundaries and Step Out of my Comfort Zone
I believe that all of the best writers-and all the best artists-challenge themselves. Not only to become better, but to try new things, to step out of their comfort zone. As writers this usually means experimenting with form or genre. It’s not just about writing though-stepping out of your comfort zone and facing your fears in all aspects of life can help you grow as a person.
7. I Shall Submit My Work
A writer does not need to submit; an author does. Somebody who wants to turn writing into a career needs to submit. Somebody who wants to make writing their future needs to submit. If you don’t submit, you can’t complain about not getting published. If you don’t submit, you’re not taking it seriously as your future, you’re treating it like a hobby.
8. I Shall Not Submit Too Early
This means that you edit your work, submit it for critique, edit it again, submit it for critique, and edit it again. It means that you spend time making sure all the character arcs go the way they’re supposed to and that the plot just comes together. It also means that you spend some time working on your query and your synopsis, so that the whole package is appealing. If you submit before you’ve edited, you’re dooming yourself; you’re submitting crap.
9. I Shall Accept Rejection Graciously
Every writer gets rejected. You must learn not to take rejection so hard; it happens to everyone and all it means is that you’re trying. Collect your rejections. If you get a specialized rejection, jump for joy and put it on your wall. It’s hard to see your baby rejected, but in the end, those rejections are like badges of honour.
10. I Shall Give Back to My Community
It’s important to give back to your community in one way or another. As a writer you can do this by volunteering your writing for local causes or by volunteering in your real life community. But you can also give back by blogging about your writing, by creating a newsletter, or by teaching a course. It’s important to give back to other writers and to help those who are not as far along the path as you are. It’s also important to give back to the wider community-but a writer must always be connected to other writers.
These ten commandments separate the serious writers from the would-be writers. They are the mark of a professional. Somebody who never gives up and who always follows these rules is a lot more likely to be a publishing success story.
I try my best to follow these rules each and every day. I am always looking for new ways to better myself both as a person and as a writer.