There are a lot of writing "rules" floating around on the interwebs. Dos and don'ts, top ten lists, stuff like that. Advice, most of it good or at least well-meant. Problem is, writing advice, as with so much else, is subjective. Not everything applies to everyone.
That said... I'm making a list. :D
It's true, I've learned a few things as I've gone along. They may or may not be dependent on my personal situation; it's hard to tell from my little corner of the world. I'm writing them down here in any case. At least, all the ones I can think of. There are probably a lot more. And there probably will be more in the future. If I'm lucky. Hey, learning is important. Means I'm getting better. I hope.
Enough digression. Here we go, all the things I've learned (that I can remember right now)!
1: Put. Your Ego. Aside
This one's tricky for a lot of writers. It's also the most important.
I do NOT mean to imply that writers are egotists. Far, far from it. Most writers I have been fortunate enough to know are models of self-effacement and even low self-esteem.
It's our work. Our work comes from some dark corner of our minds that we're not completely familiar with, but it's still ours. We love every single piece like it's our baby. Our characters and their exploits are so near and dear to our hearts that it's hard to take criticism.
This can be good. That fierce love and pride is what can cause us to fight for our work, to get the courage to put it out there in the first place, because we know more than anyone the possibilities and deservingness of our stories.
It's also what causes us to fight for our work past the point of reasonableness. "It's so good the way it is" is what keeps us from making those hefty edits that are so necessary. Yes, it probably is good. But then again, it's not. And you know it. Put your ego aside. Do the hard part. Your story will thank you.
2: Kill Your Darlings
Which leads me to my next point, and it's a popular one. To be honest, I'd only ever heard the phrase and thought it meant killing off your characters, which nearly every good (and bad, and mediocre) writer does anyway. Just recently, I found out it meant cutting out your favorite parts/lines of the story, if that's what you have to do. Well, duh. Doesn't every good (and bad, and mediocre) writer do that???
No. They don't. Which is not a good thing.
That line? You know the one. The one that's just SO GOOD and you can't bear to cut it... but it just doesn't seem to fit in the story... but it's SO GOOD and you can't bear to cut it?
No, really. Cut it.
You don't have to throw it to the four winds, to drift into the bottomless chasm of empty nothingness (and stuff); just stick it on a separate doc. Or file. Hold on to it, and refer back to it every now and again. You may find a home for it in another story. In fact, this is more than likely.
3. Edit, Edit, Edit
Another related note, but killing your darlings is only one aspect of good editing. I'm talking the nuts and bolts; fixing typos, adjusting sentence structure, even changing words. Editing is so important, and it's amazing how many writers neglect it.
I've read a lot of indie writers' work lately, much of it self-published. The work is largely unedited, and I mean obviously so. It's tough. Indie writers are often paycheck-to-paycheck sort of folks who can't afford to hire an editor.
But here's the thing. The work I've read... well... none of it's bad. Not really. The stories are amazing. Even if they aren't wholly original, the author's voice is. There is so much potential.
The problem is, the stories are nearly unreadable. I end up wasting valuable time in hopping about in the story to try and find another reference to a certain passage, in order to try and make sense of it; or in deciphering what I think an exceptionally bad typo is supposed to mean. Editing is the final touch. Editing brings clarity. I stick with it because I can see the story beneath and I want to support my fellow writers and give them a chance. Your average reader isn't going to do that.
Do them a favor. Make it clear. Don't just carve the statue; smooth it out when you're done. In return, they may just want to keep reading.
Writer, dancer, actress, mother, me.