Writing rules! Some folks love and need ’em! Other folks hate and ignore ’em! What to do? What to do?

writing-lessonsby Rachel Simon

As of last night, I am just over halfway into the second draft of my still-untitled screenplay. I’ve been working on the script, a dark comedy about a college freshman’s return to her hometown over Thanksgiving break, for about three months now. The first draft, a 93-page, incoherent mess of “writing,” took a little over a month; I wrote a few pages each night, and by November, I had a full-length, albeit horrible, script in my hands. I began editing a few weeks later, and although it still needs a ton of work before I can call it done, it’s edging closer to becoming a final product.

Everyone, from bestselling authors to students in A.P. Lit, knows that writing isn’t easy. There’s the creativity, and the motivation, and the hours of work, and, perhaps most importantly, actually finding the time to get it done. As someone who’s known she’s wanted to be a writer since first grade, I’ve long come to terms with the fact that writing takes work. Still, after so many years of practice, I thought I’d mastered it pretty well. I rarely had trouble putting pen to paper, save for a few essays here or there, and when I did encounter writer’s block, it typically lasted a matter of minutes. All in all, I figured I was one of the lucky ones; writing just seemed to come easy to me.

And then I started writing fiction. Writing books and screenplays, I soon discovered, was a lot harder than essays and memoir. It required planning and plotting and structure, all things that I previously dismissed as unnecessary. I found myself floundering, leaving works unfinished and facing days of empty pages. There were writing rules I saw online or in books that I knew some people used to help but I figured they were meant for people who didn’t know what they were doing. Not me.

It took me two unfinished scripts, one quarter-done manuscript, and an entire year to realize I was wrong. Those rules that I so casually dismissed as crazy? Turns out they kind of work. Here are the seven tenants of fiction writing that I’ve (reluctantly) found are worth following:


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