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Dianne Emley | Ten Commandments of Fiction Writing

Thank you, Fresh Fiction for inviting me to blog today! I’m Dianne Emley, author of the L.A. Times bestselling Detective Nan Vining “thrillogy”: THE FIRST CUT, CUT TO THE QUICK, and, just out, THE DEEPEST CUT. These three are a thrillogy because they have an overarching storyline in which Nan Vining obsessively pursues the man who attacked her and left her for dead, the creep whom Vining and her teenage daughter call T.B. Mann—The Bad Man. The Nan Vining series continues! I’m working on the fourth which will be out in 2010.

I’ve learned a lot about the art and business of writing since the first book hit the shelves. I’ve become not just smarter, but wiser. I’ve developed a few rules that I strive to follow when I’m writing and editing a book and some that govern my behavior when the book is out. I’d like to share these with you. Herewith:

Dianne Emley’s Ten Commandments of Fiction Writing

1. I shall heed good editorial advice, shun bad advice, and learn how to tell the difference.

2. I shall rewrite, rewrite, rewrite until my fingers are crippled and blood drips from my forehead, until being drawn and quartered seems preferable to reading the book one more time, until the book is as perfect as I can make it.

3. I shall heed Raymond Chandler’s advice to never respond to a bad review, no matter how pig-headed, uninformed, and just plain wrong it is. Conversely, I shall remember that good reviews do not make me queen and I still have to take out the garbage and scoop the cat litter.

4. I shall use the most precise words possible, use adverbs with discretion, apply exclamation points with the lightest hand, and seek out the wisdom of the dictionary and thesaurus.

5. I shall verify that all facts, locations, laws, and procedures are accurate, but shall not fall in love with research and overburden the book with excessive details.

6. I shall strive to keep working harder, digging deeper, and pushing the envelope to improve my craft. When I flounder, I shall remember Sue Grafton’s advice to “trust the process.”

7. I shall meet my deadlines and nurture my relationships with my editors, agent, marketers, and publicists, shall curb the temptation to act like a diva, and will never say to a restaurant host or hostess, “Don’t you know who I am?”

8. I shall write faithfully, diligently, and to the best of my ability all the days of my life or until I lose my mind, whichever comes first.

9. I shall never forget that my very respected readers are my employers, the ones who ultimately pay my electricity bill. I shall never write down to them and will always play fair and do what I can to keep them turning the pages.

10. I shall always be grateful for the support, patience, and tolerance of my husband, family, and friends who fully comprehend what it means to have a full-time crime novelist in their midst!

There you have it. Like any good advice, these rules aren’t always easy to follow, but I do try.

Do you have any rules you follow for writing or reading? I’d love to hear them!




10 comments posted.

Re: Dianne Emley | Ten Commandments of Fiction Writing

Those are great tips! I'm going to copy and paste them so that I will always have them! Thanks!
(Kelli Jo Calvert 1:35pm March 13, 2009)

You're welcome, Kelli Jo. I've found them useful in my writing career. Hope you do too.
(Dianne Emley 1:45pm March 13, 2009)

Those sure aound like great rules for a writer! Some of them work for my profession too - attorney! I really enjoy series - you get hooked on the characters (good guys anyway)! Will have to look into your books!
(Martha Eskuchen 5:42pm March 13, 2009)

Good point, Martha. I had a career in business before I started writing. Wish I'd been as wise then! Lots of good guys (and creepy villains) in my books. Hope you enjoy them.
(Dianne Emley 6:21pm March 13, 2009)

Good advise. Am going to copy it and
give it to a friend who is trying to get
her first book published. Rules for
reading? If you have more than one
book going at the same time (I usually
have 3 or 4) make them different
genres. It is way to easy to have plots
and characters get confused. Right
now I have a James Paterson, a
western and a modern romance going
plus a couple of children's books.
(Patricia Barraclough 10:09pm March 13, 2009)

Great tip, Patricia. I usually can't read more than one book at a time, so I admire your ability to do that!
(Dianne Emley 11:32pm March 13, 2009)

I especially like No. 8!
(LuAnn Morgan 12:25pm March 14, 2009)

Hallelujiah on knowing the difference between good and bad advice! More power to ya! :) I also love that one of the commandments is to write every day. I'm not a writer, but I'm a happy reader and I loved this! :D
(Rachael Grime 2:39pm March 14, 2009)

LuAnn, I fear I may eventually lose my mind before I'm done... ;-)

Rachael, I've taken enough bad advice that I'm better at telling the difference between good and bad. Instincts come into play, and mine have gotten better, but they're not foolproof!
(Dianne Emley 5:11pm March 14, 2009)

Thank you for sharing you experience with us. LIke everyone
else, I am going to have to copy and paste this to print out and
put on my bulletin board.
(Julie Robinson 12:27pm March 15, 2009)

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