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The 10 Commandments of Writing

We've all heard of the Ten Commandments - and no doubt seen several versions of it on the TV. 
So a bunch of us authors thought it might be fun to jot down our dos and don't's for writing. If you like our 10 Commandments of writing.

Here are mine. Gratuitous pic of me just in case you didn't know what I look like.

1 Thou shalt not write on a Sunday

- this doesn't work for everyone. Some authors I know write masses on a Sunday. But for me it doesn't. Writing is my work and Sunday's are for God and family and not work. If the muse strikes, I jot down brief notes and deal with it on the Monday.

2 Thou shalt hand write every thing first

I find I can't write any other way - but that's just me. Then as I type it up it gets edited into the second draft. I find the story flows much better that way

3 Only write what you feel comfortable with

Does this need explaining? No. If you don't want to write the scene, no one is going to want to read it because it will be cold and clinical and boring. Yes, in my case I mean sex. None of my books contain it cos no one is married. And in the odd one or two where they are, nothing like that happens. Why? Cos my 14 yr old daughter reads my stuff. And a good story (Christian story) doesn't need a sex scene thrown in for the sake of it.

No, I'm not having a go at people that write sex. It's just not for me.

So the Thous's didn't last LOL. I didn't think they would do.

4 Fade to Black

Yes, I touched on this above Sometimes, yes, we need to come out of our comfort zones, write about stuff that we wouldn't normally, in which case, let that event happen 'off camera' and deal with the aftermath.
Having said that I have scenes where people die - Wednesday's Child has a massacre detailed, but its not pointless violence. It's needed. In fact, I only referenced to the scene (in the initial copy my editor saw) in flash backs. Wednesday's Child started in the cafe where Liam met Jacqui. My editor insisted I wrote the scene where Sally - Liam's wife is murdered - and put it in, because it makes Liam the man he is.

Is that really only 4. Hmmmm. Time to put the kettle on. It helps. So does a picture :)

5 Planning v Winging it

I do both. I prefer just to write and see what happens, but most of my books now are being contracted on the synopsis. Which means certain stuff has to happen. As it's planned to.

Yeah, umm, anyway, sometimes it works.

Both systems work just fine. Don't let anyone tell you how to write. The important thing is the story gets from your head onto paper. Whether that's planning or winging it or typing or computering or handwriting.

6 Don't worry if the characters run away with the plot. Or hijack it

Mine do frequently. Take Detective Sgt Nate Holmes. He'd popped up in several stories before he got his own in Tuesday's Child. He starts off an ordinary bloke. Cop, single parent to his niece, partner to Dane. Runs a self defence class. Winds his boss up. Has a stupid sense of humour.

(No blogger, defence is not spelled incorrectly. Nor is humour. I'm using English tyvm!!)

Anyway, about half way through the book, Nate decides he's an Earl in waiting.

I'm like: Hold on a minute. Have you any idea what that's gonna mean to my carefully written out plot???
Nate: Yup. It means that right now I'm a Sir and when something happens to my father, hopefully not for many years to come, I'll gain his title. And become an Earl... You're English, you know what that means.
Me: I didn't mean that
Nate: So what's the problem?
Me: I have to rewrite huge chunks of this story now
Nate: smirks in that really annoying way he has that winds up his boss something chronic. Makes a really bad joke that annoys his partner intensely and just swings back and forth on his chair.
Me: Fine. but you're the one that's gonna have to deal with the fall out
Nate: (Freezes mid swing on chair) What do you mean?
Me: I ain't telling Adeline. At all. She's gonna find out the hard way and then you're gonna pay. In spades.
Nate: Whaaaaattttttttttt?
Me: smirks.

See told you the tea would help. Or was it the hot cross bun? Or maybe its the fact its stupid o'clock and I'm sat here letting the muse write the blog post. (That's 2am btw or was when I started this. It's now 2.39am)

7 Write what you know

Think about it. It makes sense. And its much easier.

All my books, well most of them, are set in places where I live or have visited. And Dad is always noticing the little things. Like the couple that hold hands in church. And the orchestra. And the quirks that someone may or may not have. And the bridge - see above - which incidentally is really in Scotland and not several hundred miles further south in Berkshire.

And no Pastor Jack is not Pastor of my church. OK?

Just because the church in Headley Cross is based on the one I go to...

And here's Tilly, come to see what's going on. Have you met Tilly? She's my daughter's kitten and pretty cute. Gratuitous Tilly picture - She likes helping me write....


8 Research is your friend

And it's FUN. Sunday's Child is based around the RNLI. I knew some stuff, could get it off the internet, but nothing compares to actually contacting a lifeboat station and asking to go visit. Red Watch from Hayling Island RNLI were more than kind and spent ages answering questions. See below. Plus it made a great day out for the kids.

And shoot people an email. Ask questions. If they don't want to answer, they wont' reply. But I've contacted the CPS, the Panama Canal. Twitter is great. A firefighter and police officer both answered questions and did a tech edit of scenes for me.

Because accuracy matters. A firefighter will only leap through a window into a burning room on TV. In reality they check the floor is still there first. They will check a door for heat before opening it. You want people to believe what you write, then spend a few minutes checking the facts.

9 Show not tell

Not only is it more words, it makes the scene more believable and helps your reader picture it.
Draft one.

Luke walked into the room, face as black as thunder, and sat on the couch.

ok, that gets the point across. You know he's in a bad mood because I told you. Now read this:

The door flung open, bringing the conversation to an abrupt halt. Luke stormed in, his jaw clenched and his lips set in a tight line.

The anger filling him made Sara shiver. What now? “Problems?”

“In a word, yes.” Luke’s voice was curt and taut. He sat beside her and picked up his coffee, his fingers tightening on the handle.

“Can I do anything?”

“No. It’s work related.” He took a mouthful of his coffee.

See the difference?

10 Have FUN

Not sure why this is the last because it should be the first. If you're not having fun in what you write, its not going to be fun to read. Not everyone is going to like what you write. Because everyone has different tastes in books. I know that. I also know I'm not going to win awards for my books. Or become rich. Or famous.

But I do what I do because I love it. It's fun. And if I don't write I go stir crazy.

You can find the other participating blogs here.

Delia Latham on Write Right!  
Jayna Morrow on    

Brooksie on Groovie Brooksie 

Linda Yezak at 777 Peppermint Place - posting Thursday

Julia M.Toto

Therese Travis at Paperfaces

Pam Thibodeaux

And finally, when all else fails remember this:

And now it's 3am. Time for one more cup of tea and break out the notebook to start writing a new book for an hour before going back to bed. Having finished two this week, I'm going to start another. Deadlines are such fun. Seriously. If I didn't like this I wouldn't be doing it.

Live long and prosper - Deut 5:33. Seriously. 


Delia Latham said…
Nicely done, Clare! Great "commandments." (And I love your convo with Nate! lol)
Julia Toto said…
Thanks for sharing your experience and words of wisdom. They are deeply appreciated,Clare.
LoRee Peery said…
Clare, you nailed it! I so appreciate your humor. My "list" is extremely boring compared to yours. You are so fortunate to have a mind in the middle of the night. Mine goes into hibernation.
Paula Mowery said…
Thanks for sharing your list. For more writing exercise fun please subscribe to I've got some other thought-provoking exercises for my Christian writer/friends coming up.
Linda Yezak said…
"Have fun"! Love that. Sometimes it feels too much like work to be fun. Thanks for the reminder!
Brooksie said…
Cool commandments! And I totally agree with writing things your children can read.
Lilly Maytree said…
So relate to these, Clare… especially the one about not writing on Sunday (I stick to that one, as well). And the one about characters running away with the plot? Oh, how that adds excitement to our lives, eh? I'm sure it's what keeps us out of the loony bins!
Personally, I love it when characters hijack the story!

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