Janet Fitch, the author of the blockbuster White Oleander and a teacher at USC and The Squaw Valley Community of Writers, approved the publication of this list -- intended for fiction writers but good for many of us -- in its entirety in the Los Angeles Times: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2010/07/janet-fitchs-10-rules-for-writers.html
I've shortened the "rules" here to give people a taste, but go to the LA Times website to get Janet's full concepts:
1. Write the sentence, not just the story
Long ago I got a rejection from the editor of the Santa Monica Review, Jim Krusoe. It said: “Good enough story, but what’s unique about your sentences?” That was the best advice I ever got.
2. Pick a better verb
Most people use twenty verbs to describe everything from a run in their stocking to the explosion of an atomic bomb.
3. Kill the cliché.
When you’re writing, anything you’ve ever heard or read before is a cliché.
4. Variety is the key.
Most people write the same sentence over and over again.
5. Explore sentences using dependent clauses.
A dependent clause (a sentence fragment set off by commas, dontcha know) helps you explore your story by moving you deeper into the sentence.
6. Use the landscape.
Always tell us where we are. And use it.
7. Smarten up your protagonist.
Your protagonist is your reader’s portal into the story. The more observant he or she can be, the more vivid will be the world you’re creating.
8. Learn to write dialogue.
This involves more than I can discuss here, but do it. Read the writers of great prose dialogue–people like Robert Stone and Joan Didion.
9. Write in scenes.
A scene starts and ends in one place at one time (the Aristotelian unities of time and place–this stuff goes waaaayyyy back).
10. Torture your protagonist.
The writer is both a sadist and a masochist. We create people we love, and then we torture them.
Causes Kevin Arnold Supports
Poetry Center San Jose, East Palo Alto Police Activities League (EPA PAL), Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Yale Writing Conference, Gold Rush Writers