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Jule's Rules: Simple Rules for Writers to Follow

by Julia A. Keirns

A friend from high school called me the other day. She wanted to come over and discuss my writing. She heard I was freelancing and wanted to see my accomplishments. She asked a lot of questions and told me of her own plans to begin writing more seriously. We had a wonderful visit, and remembered our rivalry of who could write the best story in the third grade.

After she left I began thinking about all the advice we shared. I told her a lot of secrets I had found through my years of struggling to get something published. Then I decided I better write down some of the rules I gave her in case anyone else asked for advice. Maybe I could at least appear to be more professional if I stayed consistent in my advice. So here goes...

  1. Privacy. I never write anything in front of anybody, except God. I tend to make a complete fool of myself sometimes when I read and act out loud, and I know He is the only one who will not laugh at me. I can't completely let my creative juices flow with somebody watching me, or even if they are just sitting in the same room. It's just too embarrassing.
  2. I never let anybody read anything I have written until it is completely finished. Otherwise I get bogged down with tons of suggestions like do this or do that or make the character act this way. I get confused with everyone else's ideas, and I lose track of my own. Besides, they never quite understand what I am trying to say anyway, and I just end up doing so much explaining that I lose interest in the whole idea.
  3. Edit, change and rewrite. If I am too embarrassed or ashamed of something to let my friends or family read it, then I know it isn't good enough yet to send to an editor. I will edit it, change it, rewrite it, or file it if necessary until I know it is good enough for the people I respect to read it. When it is good enough for them, then it is good enough for a stranger.
  4. Mail, submit, mail, submit. I always have something sent out to someone somewhere. Freelancing is all chance (and talent of course), but mostly chance. You have to hit the right editor at the right time with the right story or article. I never let a rejection catch my eye for more than a second, because I know it was just the wrong story at the wrong time sent to the wrong editor. So I just send them something else that is a closer match to the guidelines.
  5. Write everything down and keep it in a file somewhere. I never throw away anything that has to do with an idea or a thought. It never fails, at a different time, much later, I will turn that idea into an article, a story, or a poem. I have lots of notebooks, files, binders and drawers full of ideas.
  6. And finally, my most important rule of all...I AM A WRITER! I am a writer. I am a writer. Not, if I could just get a book published I would be a real writer. Not, I wish I was as famous as Ann M. Martin and then I would be a real writer. And not ever do I say that someday I want to be a writer. I am a writer. I wake up every morning thinking about writing. My computer is always on, my notebook is always close by. I go to bed at night thinking about writing. That makes me a writer. I have several things published in magazines, ezines and newspapers, a few things accepted here and there always waiting to be published somewhere. More than I can count. I write whenever the feeling hits me, and it hits me often. I will write until the day I die. I am a writer.

These are the simple rules I follow. They are my rules and they work for me. Never give yourself a set of rules that you cannot follow. Just because something works for me though, does not mean it will work for you. Create your own list of rules. When you find something that works, put it on your list. Make it your rule.