How to Write.

James JoyceFrom NY Times Sunday Book Review by Colson Whitehead: A few excerpts:

Rule No. 1: Show and Tell.

Rule No. 2: Don’t go searching for a subject, let your subject find you. You can’t rush inspiration…you can’t force it. Once your subject finds you, it’s like falling in love. It will be your constant companion…Your ideal subject should be like a stalker with limitless resources…

Rule No. 3: Write what you know…listen to your heart. Ask your heart, Is it true? And if it is, let it be. Once the lawyers sign off, you’re good to go…

Rule No. 4: Never use three words when one will do. Be concise. Don’t fall in love with the gentle trilling of your mellifluous sentences…

Rule No. 6: What isn’t said is as important as what is said. In many classic short stories, the real action occurs in the silences. Try to keep all the good stuff off the page…

Rule No. 7: Writer’s block is a tool — use it. When asked why you haven’t produced anything lately, just say, “I’m blocked.”…The specifics don’t matter — the important thing is to figure out what works for you.

Rule No. 10: Revise, revise, revise. I cannot stress this enough. Revision is when you do what you should have done the first time, but didn’t.

Rule No. 11: There are no rules. If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too? No. There are no rules except the ones you learned during your Show and Tell days. Have fun. If they don’t want to be friends with you, they’re not worth being friends with. Most of all, just be yourself.

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  1. Good advice. It’s worked for me.


  2. Great rules, David!


  3. Great advice. Thanks for sharing.



  4. Great rules, I will post these in my office as a reminder


  5. Wonderful advise! Going on my office wall, too! 🙂


  6. Reblogged this on Writing Tips and commented:
    Such good advice from one of my favorite blog authors!


  7. Great advice, David. You do understand. How refreshing to find a kindred spirit it the writing world.


  8. Excellent and concise, David. Thanks for sharing!


  9. All true, and best absorbed through trial and error learning. I found the ‘show and tell’ one an agony to grasp, and then one day I relaxed and it came to me, probably while reading someone else’s novel and thinking how cleverly he or she wrote.


  10. Alex Jones says:

    Good tips.



  1. […] you David Kanigan for this link through to David Colson Whitehead’s Rules for Writing – […]


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