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The Eight Rules of Writing

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

I admire the simplicity of Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules of writing, as set down below:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. [Maybe this is the best rule of them all.]
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Now these rules pertain almost exclusively to writing fiction. I wonder if I could adapt them to writing blogs. I’ll have to get back to you on that.


2 thoughts on “The Eight Rules of Writing

  1. Love it — I need to print these out and pin them on my office wall. I don’t quite agree with all of them, but they bear thinking about. I *could* be wrong!

  2. Unfortunately, my favorite set of rules — from Mark Twain’s “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses” — is too long for posting here.

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