Why wait until you’re published: Here are the 16 rules of writing fiction:

  1. It has to be 18. This is actually the second rule. I’ve already screwed up, as the first rule is…
  2. ..to get published. No one gives a flying toot what your rules are until you’ve proven they work. If you are published then you probably didn’t even follow rules, other than joining words together, screaming repeatedly, and then doing it again. Once everyone asked for advice on writing, you made up rules, leading to:
  3. Once you are published you can make up the rules, displacing the fact it was only fluke, tenacity and editing the living fuck out of every word that worked, not to mention the current spouse, and probably several exes, enduring your desperate need for praise while they read on-going final drafts. Several grew so adept at this that it now counts as a life skill on their CV and dating profile.
  4. Like parenting: recommend things you should be doing, not what you are.
  5. Do not think about plot holes during sex. In fact, if you’re getting sex give up writing. The whole point of writing was to get laid. You’re done (not prematurely).
  6. If you’re stuck, just bang out some new rules; if nothing else it’ll look like you’re writing, particularly if you’re in a public place,
  7. Always edit drunk, for some reason written bullshit tolerance is reduced by booze, even your own. Beer is more forgiving of looks than grammar.
  8. Pinning a plot down is like wrestling a hose at full velocity; someone’s going to get hurt, but at least the garden gets watered.
  9. Another rule is not to waste time writing down rules of writing; it means you’re avoiding real work, which is of course the point of writing, but that’s one remove too far.
  10. Be unafraid to make up rules that suit your mood, such as always write in a bed of biscuit crumbs, or in a bad mood.
  11. Do not read other people’s rules. It implies they know what they’re doing (which they probably don’t) and leaves you feeling inadequate.
  12. Throw away notebooks of ideas – you’ll never read them. Someone else could find them and base a best selling novel/film adaptation on your thoughts and you still wouldn’t recognise them as yours.
  13. “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – this is Anton Chekhov, and is advice of the sort writers will make up seconds after having brilliantly described the glint of light on broken glass, but eventually be edited out of their novel by their agent/publisher.
  14. If no publisher thinks you’re worth publishing then self publish. It can’t be worse than anything else out there, with their fonts Indian firework manufacturers would find garish. Only if your novel reads less well than one featuring a cat as protagonist, with the spelling of a hasty tweet, should you not self publish.
  15. Talking of haste, do not rush into declaring your rules. Thanks to the Internet they can never change. If you do later change them, change one in the middle, between say 4 and 11: no one will notice.
  16. Realise you have written rules on how to write the Rules of Fiction, as opposed to actual fiction, but thanks to ignoring your own rule 15 it’s too late.
  17. The best way to judge the camber of a floor is to roll a marble across it. You can’t do this until you’ve built the floor.
  18. Learn to count. To 16 helps. Writers are obsessed with word count, and 16 is the average number of words written before Facebook/blog/Twitter is checked since last time.
  19. Editing is like decluttering. You can move books and CDs around the elephant in the room, but until it’s gone you are wasting your time. For more on this see post on clutter: http://wp.me/p5AOBW-3f

The WHSmith Fresh Talent novel – The Life Assistance Agency is now available at Amazon :

And in bookshops.