Writing is difficult. Fun, but difficult. Kind of like being a kid. That must be why both have rules. And sometimes they aren’t that different. But, more about that later.
First, I’d like to talk about another thing that has rules. A writing contest. Susanna Leonard Hill’s In Just Spring writing contest to be exact. Here is my entry:
Spring Was Not Here
Spring was not here.
I put on my boots and went outside anyway.
Spring has puddles
and green grass
Outside had snowflakes
and brown grass
and no mud.
Spring was really not here.
“Wait up!” I called.
I tried to get the snowflakes. One by one they melted and disappeared.
“Do you want to play catch?” my neighbor yelled.
It was fun, but our ball got soggy.
“Watch me,” called my sister doing headstands in the grass.
I am not as good at headstands as my sister. Soon, my knees and elbows were green.
“Let’s play tag,” I said.
The slippery ground made it tricky.
“Take off those muddy boots before you come inside,” my mother said.
Then I knew spring was here at last.
Here are the rules:
1. Write a children’s story, in poetry or prose, maximum 350
words (I’m under with 131).
2. The story must be about something that really says “SPRING” to
you – something that really makes you feel that spring is here!
3.The last line must be “[Character Name] knew Spring was really here!” or
“[Character Name] knew Spring was here at last!” (You can also write in first
person if you want – e.g. I knew Spring was really here…. and present tense is
How did I do?
Now, on to the post.
I was a rule-follower as a kid. I’m the same way as an adult. It is probably why my chapter book character is a rule breaker. Like when she eats all of the cookies for her Blossoms troop’s (similar to Girl Scouts) sale. Or when she sticks a spider in her adversary’s pocket, leading to an itchy spider bite.
But that doesn’t mean I necessarily like rules. It used to drive me nuts as a kid when my friends didn’t have to wear a coat and I did. Or that they had a later bedtime. What made it worse was that, when I complained to my mother, she said, “I’m not so-an-so’s mother.”
I know now what she was trying to tell me: that every family has different rules because every parent is just trying to do what is best for their kids. Mister is probably going to hate that I won’t let him climb up the slides at the playground or have his toys at the dinner table.
Maybe like every family, every writer has different rules too. But I would guess they aren’t too far off from kids’ rules. Especially ones like:
Keep your hands and feet to yourself.
Tell the truth.
And here is how they apply to writing:
Be polite– don’t put down your ideas. Even the silliest idea might have merit. Even when it doesn’t, writing down the silly ideas gives the good ideas the courage to come out.
Listen– when something is speaking from within, drop everything and write it down!
Keep your hands and feet to yourself– no violence is to be used against drafts. Cut if you must, but save everything.
Tell the truth– write what is true for your story, but keep it true to real life. Even fantasy has things that are relatable and true even in an entirely made-up world.
Clean up– revision is vital. Sometimes the more people who help, the easier it is.
Help out– join a critique group, go to conferences, enter contests (like Susanna Leonard Hill’s), and help another writing. I’d almost guarantee that what you’ll get out of it will be more than you put in.
Other writing activities also apply (even Mary’s rules for writing, well…rules!):
You won’t truly feel like a super controlling behavior obsessed “mom” (in my case) until you try to write down all the rules. We are having someone new watch the dogs, so I sent her the girls’ schedule, feeding instructions, suggested activities and emergency contact information. Despite the fact that my pets are fairly mild mannered, my “rules” ran to 4 pages (and that was without instructions for brushing the cat’s teeth — I figured I’m not paying this woman enough to perform that particular task). YIKES! I’m a nut…
My writing rules for this project were pretty standard: note deadline (date of trip); write up rules(listen); hand them off to DH for proofreading/revision(help out); walk through them (literally) for a few days and make note of things I had missed(be polite and tell the truth); revise rules (clean up); send draft to caregiver; meet with caregiver so she can warm up to both the rules and the pets(keep your hands and feet to yourself); hope for the best.
Maybe “hope for the best” is the most important rule of all.