Joshua Pantalleresco’s ‘Rules’ of Writing – Part 1

I said yes to this without thinking really.

I thought, “sure, do another blog to shamelessly promote my books.”  Seems like a good idea.  Only looking at the whole topic and thinking about it for a second, I came to a horrifying thought.

I’m the one talking about rules in writing?  Me?  You sure?  Alright.

Let me see what I can bul-  I mean, come up with.

Thinking about this rule to writing thing, the obvious question is are there really any rules to writing?  I mean, I make stuff up and write it down.  I’m not sure if it’s right or wrong.  In truth, there’s a lot of question as to the whole right or wrong thing.  We’re making stuff up after all, and really the only thing that really matters is that you connect with readers.  This is a fancy way of me saying that I’m not sure I have ten rules or guidelines or whatever you’d like to call them to write.  I think what I will say here is I’m going to talk about what works for me, and if you can get something from it, more power to you.   I just hope I haven’t already sounded like a gibbering idiot before I began.

My Rules, Guidelines erm….Stuff to writing.

Number One:  Write!

I’m pretty sure that one is everyone’s first rule.   And it should be, because let’s face it, that’s the name of the game.   You may have this amazing, one of a kind idea about a jar of dirt that no one has ever seen before.   Kudos to you my friend if you do, but if you don’t write it down, it’s just an idea.  So write it down, especially if the idea is fresh.

Number Two:  Keep Writing!

This one might seem silly upon first glance. But here’s the thing us writers realize after a few sessions on a story.  We screw up.  All the time.  When we realize that we make mistakes, our first instinct is to just go back and fix it.  After we fix it, we breathe a sigh of relief and keep going.

Or do we?

If you do, awesome.  I’m not like that.  I tend to want to work a sentence, rewrite it, clarify it, check my word choices.  You know, make it perfect.  The problem with that elusive perfect prose is that it’s impossible to reach.   You always know that no matter how clean your words are, you could do it better.

You know what you are not doing when you pursue this course of action?  Finishing your story.   This is a nasty trap many a writer fall victim to.  I’ve done it myself.  So much so that now I don’t think about my story not being perfect.  As far as I’m concerned, this draft of the story IS perfect…until the draft is finished.  Then I can revise and admonish myself for not making it perfect.  But I don’t give myself that luxury to revise myself until the draft is done.

Don’t dare engage in revision until the story is done.  That way lies madness, and an incomplete story.  Keep writing.

Number Three:  Finish your story.

This one might also seem silly upon first glance.   It’s really hard to close a tale.  There are a myriad of reasons for this, but if I had to be honest,  it’s because this is the part that takes the most work.  Writing a story is a process of sitting on your keyboard and doing the work of putting words to a page, and getting to the end of it is a journey.  Walking that walk day in and day out takes discipline and time and effort.   It’s the most work a writer has short of promoting their stuff.

There are a number of ways to get there.  Word count is a decent path to success, unless you’re doing a book a like the watcher, then it’s a matter of chapters and goals.  But the best advice here to help you get to the end is that each day set yourself some goals and work to achieving them.  Stephen King said that five hundred words a day equals a novel at the end of the year, and he’s right.  Setting yourself goals in small steps often increases your chances of success of getting there.  So set yourself small steps to walk each day, whether it’s a word count, chapter or whatever you need to get through the day, and you’ll achieve the towering success of a novel in no time.

Number Four:  Don’t get distracted

So if I’m going to mention finishing work, I have to acknowledge the giant pink elephant in the room that is the internet.   The internet is a wonderful tool filled with knowledge, information and other things to get you on government watch lists.  But it is also a place to get distracted.

If you looked at my browsing history, you’d find wrestling, facebook, twitter, and amazon as my go to places.  We all have those go to places on the internet.  In fact, at least two hours a day of my life get lost to the abyss that the world wide web resides in.  We all do it on some level.  Maybe it’s a video of Richard Simmons on Whose Line is it anyway?  Or maybe it’s watching Charlie Murphy talking about getting his butt whipped by Prince in Basketball and having pancakes afterwards.  All in all, your computer is also your toy, and should be respected as such.  Go play a little before your begin, and hey, use it as the toy it is once you are done for the day.  Until then, turn off the wireless.  It’s a click of a button.

Now that the pink elephant has been identified,  let’s get serious for a second.  Distractions don’t just come in the form of internet amusement.   Distractions are everywhere.  They come in many forms and wear many faces.  Sometimes it can be a job, a spouse, a friend, a hassle, overcommittment – the list goes on and on.  Your greatest form of wealth is not your money but your time.  Treat your time like gold, because it’s more valuable.  You can’t replace it once it’s gone.   So if you want to write, you have to make time for it, and that means NO DISTRACTIONS.

If you want this,  make it happen.   Even at my busiest working two jobs to stay afloat, I managed to find forty minutes in a day to work.  It can be forty, it can be five minutes.  It doesn’t matter.   If you want to make something happen, it can and it will.  So don’t let yourself be bogged down with distractions and inaction.  If you want to write, WRITE.

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Joshua Pantalleresco is the author of the epic poem, The Watcher, and its sequel, Stormdancer. He writes fiction, poetry and comics. He also loves to do interviews. He has written columns for comicbloc and allpulp and currently does so for comicmix. He resides in Calgary.

He has a blog you can follow here.

And I urge you to check out his podcast series which you can also find through his blog. Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of Joshua Pantalleresco’s ‘Rules’ of Writing!

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