I totally lifted this from the internet, but it has been recopied and reposted so many times I won’t attribute it except to Pixar.
How many of these rules do YOU follow?
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
Okay, that’s fair. I think I do.
#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
Hmm. Guilty of breaking that one. But it’s so much fun!
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
But… I HATE rewriting!
Actually, I agree with this one a million percent. I tell new writers that they shouldn’t worry too much about the first few chapters because we writers are a wordy bunch and tend to need a chapter or two to get up and running, and because by the time you get to the end of your story, what you thought was needed to get rolling has changed. You don’t need all that back story in ch 1, and your readers may not need it at all.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
yeah, when you start writing for Pixar, do that. Until then… well, it’s true. You need tension and an outline. Writing it down helps.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
Simplify is a key, and it’s very hard to do. Harder to do well. REWRITE!
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
Gee, I do that and never even knew it was a thing.
Your ending will tell you what to leave out of your middle. Sounds oddly like diet advice. Moving on!
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
Yes, this gets all caps: THERE IS NO PERFECT STORY! PUBLISH IT AND GET ON TO THE NEXT (BETTER) ONE.
Of course my writer friends say, Yes, Dan, but at least go back and fix the typos. Okay, fine.
#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
I think I will try this. I’m rarely stuck, but when I am, getting onto the treadmill frees my mind. As in, there are lots of things I’d rather sit down and write as opposed to run a mile. It’s amazingly effective for writer’s block. I’ve written several chapters on mornings where I overdid it on pizza the night before.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
Hmm. No idea what that means. We may have to think about this one.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
GET IT OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND ONTO PAPER/INTO THE COMPUTER! That’s one of my prior blog posts.
#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
I say, let them fight! TOO many authors don’t do this – and it makes for BORING sections in otherwise brilliant stories
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
I don’t think every one of these needs my commentary
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
Throw it in a folder and later you’ll see your brilliance or your idiocy – and then you can fairly determine whether it’s worth doing something with
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
That may be the stuff you remove during editing, that fussing.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
THAT sounds like a good blog post. What about dissecting a movie you like? And emulating it?
#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
You can argue with some of these pointers, but in the end they are more right than they are wrong. Most likely, the ones you don’t think you need – are the ones you need most.