I'm currently reading "Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life." by Terry Brooks. I've read it before of course - about three times!
I'm going to break off about my current work and dive into the way TB and other seriously successful authors write...
TB follows these rules -
1) Write what you know.
2) Your Characters must behave in a believable fashion.
3) A protagonist must be challenged by a conflict that requires resolution.
4) Movement = Growth; Growth = Change; Without change nothing happens.
5) The strength of the protagonist is measured by the threat of the antagonist.
6) Show, don't tell.
7) Avoid the Grocery List approach to describing characters.
8) Characters must always be in a story for a reason.
9) Names are important
10) Don't bore the reader.
I have another fantasy writing hero - well actually, it wasn't one writer, but a duo - David and Leigh Eddings, neither of whom are still with us (RIP). In their book "The Rivan Codex" they also set out the rules that they used. They called it "a tacitly agreed upon list of elements that make for a good fantasy" -
1) Religion - when writing for fun, paganism is more fun than Christianity - even Papa Tolkien agreed with that!
2) The Quest - No quest, no story.
3) The Magic Thingamajig - usually, but not always the object of the quest.
4) Our Hero - Galahad, Gawaine, Lancelot or Perceval; Galahad is saintly, Gawaine is loyal, Lancelot is heavyweight champion of the world and Perceval is dumb / innocent.
5) Resident Wizard - Merlin, Gandalf or Belgarath / Polgara... take your pick!
6) Our Heroine - Wispy blonde girl mooning around or little tiger who knows how to get what she wants?
7) Our Villain - Someone with diabolical intentions...
8) Companions - obvious I think!
9) The Companion's Lady Friends - again, obvious.
10) The World - Maps, Governments, Currencies etc etc. - too obvious to explain...
I suppose this is more of an outlining list than a set of rules, but by the time you finish working through it, you have a detailed world to work with. My first attempt at writing a novel (before I got a PC of my own) used the list from "The Rivan Codex". It created a lever arch file of world details and a slimmer folder of maps...
I'm sorry, but I got hooked on the map thing - I create a map of the area that the story is going to be taking place in, before I even think about the story.
The maps get amended as I go through the story as well - it gives me something to look at and seems to help with writers block at the same time! I do this for every book I start. The ones I didn't do it for don't go anywhere - I don't have a frame of reference.
Anyway. My third writing hero - and I've had a few people disagree with me on this one - is Piers Anthony. I've picked up bits and pieces from him as well, just nothing as well laid out as Terry Brooks or D & L Eddings.
I realised as I was reading TB's book that all three (four) of my writing heroes have one thing in common. They were all picked up by Ballantine Books when they first started out and they were all edited by Lester and Judy Del Rey (sadly, also deceased, RIP). So is what I have read their way of writing or the way that they were gently guided into by the Del Rey's?
TB has a mantra that he tells everyone who asks how to get published / become a good writer -
Outline, outline, outline.
Edit, edit, edit,
Anyway, back to "The Secret of Arking Down." I looked back through what I had written in those 30 hectic days and decided that it was worth keeping the idea and most of the first part of the story. But the rest of it didn't seem to work right.
That was when I realised I had contravened rules 3, 4, 5 and 8... *blushes*- Imagine my embarrassment!
Of course that had only happened because I had ignored line two of the mantra - Outline, outline, outline.So now I have to go back over what I have written and start again... right from the beginning!
Of course I'll get the Bog Boy done first - it forms a background story for Book two of the series, so I need it to work properly...
And as well as finishing TB's book, I'm going to read "On Writing" by Stephen King. TB recommends it, so I'm getting it out of the library as soon as I can. I'll probably add to my list of rules etc once I'm done...
You never stop learning in this job!