Today we get to enjoy a guest post by author Michael P. Wines. Wooo!
Twelve Rules to Writing a Story
Rule Number One– Use your full name and middle initial at the top of the first page, because it sounds important and snooty. Snooty sells like a motherfucker.
Rule Number Two– Don’t follow anybody’s list of rules on how to write, but read them anyways just in case you discover some nuggets of helpfulness. If someone is writing a list of rules, they’re probably procrastinating on another project and shouldn’t be taken seriously, anyhow.
Rule Number Three– Read a lot. Read the fun shit. Read that shit you don’t want to admit you read, because you’re snooty and use your middle initial. Think about what you would do differently with the overall plot.
Rule Number Four– Read a lot. Read a classic, like Huckleberry Fin. You will whine and pout and remember how it sucked in high school. But get through a page or two and look at the way the sentences belong to the story. Then examine the last thing you wrote. Does every single sentence feel like it belongs to the story? Make it kick-assier.
Rule Number Five– Make up words. It’s your story. Write however the hell you want. My favorite punctuation is the apostrophe. It changes the way a sentence is read, especially in dialogue. Shorten words, and combine ‘em. For example- “That dress is whiter than an albino angel’s butt,” said Bob with a thick southern accent. Instead write- “That dress ‘s whiter ‘n the moon-glow’f an albeeno angel,” Bubba uttered betwixt tobacco spit. But don’t overdo it.
Rule Number Six– Don’t take yourself too seriously. You may want to write an epic with deep-felt, soul-twisting, life lesson, but your audience probably doesn’t give a half-a-sac-a-poop. They are probably reading to be entertained, not to be enlightened. If you want to write your life’s work, wait until you’ve written a life’s worth of work. No matter what you write, only a select few will want to read it. Consider what you like to read compared to all the stories there are to be read.
Rule Number Seven– Join a writing group (or start one). Read what you wrote out loud to someone, preferably a group of writers more experienced. If you want to improve your writing, feel the pressure of a well-worn ear. Accept and even seek out constructive criticism.
Rule Number Eight– Entertain yourself. If you can’t get excited about a story, how are you going to entertain anyone else? Think about a scene after it’s written. Go back and imagine how it could be more entertaining or interesting, especially if you have to rewrite a whole chunk of your story. See the end of rule number four.
Rule Number Nine– Make the characters characters. Don’t just have a body there to say or do something to further the plot. The dialogue and actions of minor characters keep the story interesting between big plot twists.
Rule Number Ten– If you’re writing a novel keep a character list with major plot ties. Read it before you start each chapter. Keeping up with the details makes a good plot great. Plot holes suck and will turn your reader away faster than Bambie walking into a hunting lodge. The list also helps you get into your character’s minds.
Rule number Eleven– Be patient. If you get stuck, work on something else and come back to it. Write something short and entertaining. Show it to somebody that will appreciate it. Get that feeling of accomplishment (even if it’s small). Take that feeling back to the spot you were stuck. Be kick-assier.
Rule number Twelve– When you’re done, let your story sit overnight. If you think you’re done with a draft, let it marinate. Wait until the next day, no matter how excited you are too send it out. Read it aloud to yourself and mark any spots you stumble over. Fix it.
I hope this helped, if you wanted help. I hope it entertained if you wanted entertainment. In reality you will have to know a whole lot more than these rules to be able to write a good story. Everyone has their own method. These are just a few of mine. I know you can’t tell (because of rule number one) that I’m poor, but I am. So go buy my book, Stupid Alabama. You might recognize a few characters…
Michael P. Wines is the author of Stupid Alabama, which is his first book. Stupid Alabama is a fantastic middle-grade, YA novel that follows geeky kid Melvin who is forced to visit his weirdo uncle in Alabama instead of going to computer camp.
Seriously, go check out his book. It’s awesome and hilarious. Stupid Alabama: A “Laugh-So-Hard-You-Will-Snot” tale About Growing Up to Discover Not All Things are “Stupid” but a lot of them are.