Ten Rules for Successful Writing

Repercussions Cover, Small

I was just distracting myself from working on anything that will pay me, and realized that I hadn’t put up a blog post in awhile. And I do have some news. The news is Wearing the Cape: The B-Files is finished and out on DriveThruRPG. Yay!

What? You want more? My plots and thoughts on the next Wearing the Cape novel (still officially titled Repercussions but likely to be something else) continue to develop. It’s going to be a doozy. After the last couple of books mostly maintaining the status-quo with a bit of forward momentum on Astra’s arc, this one’s going to shake the Post-Event World to its foundations. It’s going to be so big I probably won’t be able to put the first couple of chapters up here before I release it, because fans would read them and then hunt me down. The most I can say is . . . that’s the cover up there.

Sorry, that’s all I can tell you.

But, I’m not done. I found a humorous conversation-thread that has spanned Facebook and Twitter, that at least got my absurdist juices flowing. What was it?

Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules for Novelists.

Now I must confess that I’ve never read Jonathan Franzen’s stuff. Doing a quick search of Amazon told me he had a couple of books up there with more than a thousand reviews each, and that’s a good indication that he’s Somebody Known.

But his 10 Rules? Yeah . . . .

I direct you to commentary provided by Chuck Wendig’s Twitter Feed. (Profanity Warning.) Personally, I think most of the reactions I’ve seen have been kind of over the top. I even feel a little for Franzen; when you’ve written a few commercially successful books you can start feeling a bit full of yourself. And you should–it’s an accomplishment. When you’ve written a couple of critically successful books, which I gather his are, and all the Right People are saying how good you are, feeling full of yourself is pretty unavoidable.  And then somebody asks you “How do you do it? What are your rules?” You must have some, right?

In fairness to Franzen’s critics, though, a bunch of these aren’t rules. They’re observations of debatable usefulness.

So, in the spirit of my need for distraction, I started thinking about my own 10 Rules for Successful Writers. And here they are.

Marion G. Harmon’s 10 Rules for Successful Writers

  1. Read. Read a lot. Read until you know how good writing reads. This may involve reading books on writing.
  2. Write. Write a lot. Write until people who don’t care about your feelings tell you that this is good writing.
  3. Let this uncaring person or people tell you how your writing could be better. They might not be right in their suggestions, but they’ll point you to things that you probably need to improve one way or another.
  4. Put what you write out there. To friends. To writers groups. To contests. To agents. To publishers. And see rules 2 and 3. Whether you get a publishing contract or self-publish, you’ll know you’re on the right road when somebody pays money for your stuff.
  5. When somebody pays money for your stuff, write more of that. Also, continue to listen to the people in rule #3.
  6. Now that somebody is paying to read your stuff, listen to them too. Not everyone will like everything about your stuff, and while everyone’s mileage varies, not everyone with criticism is an idiot. Really.
  7. Listening doesn’t mean agreeing. Listen to them, look at your stuff, and make up your own mind. After all, you did a lot of things right already; otherwise they wouldn’t buy your stuff.
  8. Money is nice, but don’t write stuff just because you know people will buy it. You’ve got to like it, too. After all, your name is on it. And it gets boring if you’re not invested in it yourself.
  9. Form habits that help you to write more stuff. But don’t go crazy.
  10. See rule #1. Keep reading other people’s stuff.

So there you go, my ten rules for successful writing. Be inspired. Or laugh a little. To quote a wonderful scene from Parks and Recreation:

Amy Poehler: “That’s not really the attitude I’d expect from an award winner.”

Nick Offerman: “Everything I do is the attitude of an award winner, because I’ve won an award.”

People pay to read my stuff, so all my rules are the rules of a successful writer.


15 thoughts on “Ten Rules for Successful Writing

  1. No teaser for the upcoming book? Is it a short like Omega Night?
    You said there was going to be a short!
    Things were working out for Astra. Is she going to lose someone? Kitsune???

    Looking forward to your next publishment.

  2. Oh man I’ve been waiting for this are those rocket boots I spy ? And the black knight look is all sorts of badass and the atmosphere in that one picture oh man I’m speculating here but I think this is it the moment when the table flips. The dark clouds of war and change clashing with the dawn and horizon of the old worlds order I can’t wait to see where this goes.

  3. George: I appreciate your mentioning Jonathan Franzen. He is a very good novelist and one of my favorites that he wrote is entitled THE TWENTY-SEVENTH CITY. It is a great fiction that shows the =real= image of my hometown of St. Louis. It is set in the mid-1980s, it shows St. Louis and all of the uniqueness and some oddities that are true to life in this city, even today! The novel makes Ferguson look very small in comparison.

    I am going to share your ten rules with a few writer friends of mine. I have a few who have become rather “pen shy” and I want to get them to write more.

  4. Your rules look okay to me. If they work for you, then they’re great.

    I’m glad I checked to see if there was anything new up. I’m on another reread of the series, although I’ve been skipping chapters that I have memorized. Right now, I’m in the Grimworld chapter of Team-ups and Crossovers, and I’m focusing (obsessing?) over something I almost let slide previously.

    “Because we are on the edge of the abyss and skating very carefully past it. Because since the Pulse we have managed, with the Ouroboros Group, one psychohistorian Verne, and a quintet of variously-gifted precogs, to push ourselves back towards hope for the Good Future that you undoubtedly know about…”. Harmon, Marion G.. Team-Ups and Crossovers (Wearing the Cape Book 6) (p. 181). Kindle Edition.

    “One psychohistorian Verne”? Really? Is his cape name “Seldon?” Can he read and manipulate emotions? Is this a character discussed in Barlow’s Guide? Does this character exist in Hope’s reality, too? This person was obviously an Asimov fan before his breakthrough, or like a certain detective, the result of someone’s obsession.

    So, what’s the story? Is he ever featured in the next book or later books?

      1. Speaking of throw-away thoughts, will it ever occur to hope to tell Shell that she would or does give permission for her brain to be quantum thingied? Since she isn’t dead, her ghost-hope is still gathering experience, but back-ups is back-ups.

  5. Are we going to see Mal deal with killing someone in the line of duty? (He doesn’t seem to be counting the Green Man.)

  6. I just found out the WtC RPG while looking for something to shake things up on my next campaign (playing D&D at the moment). The book is so well reviewed online that I got very interested very quickly. It didnt take long for me to find the novels and get interested in them too, after all, they look amazing, and are as well reviewed as the RPG. Then, I find myself at this blog, and find this post, and you link me to an incredible Chuck Wendig thread. You know that feeling that you’ll love something even before you try it out? Yeah… thats me right now.

  7. Suggestion from a paying reader:

    Try to work on the name similarity issue. Mr. Harmon, you use a LOT of similar names in your writing: Jimmy Choo/Johnny Cho, Brian/Brandon, etc. Sometimes you even mix them up and the mix-up survives the final cut.

    One author I knew of, the late humor columnist Art Buchwald, had an interesting way of dealing with this: he let people to bid for the name of their choice for his fictional characters at charity auctions! Perhaps something similar would work for you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s