Nine and Sixty Ways

“There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,


Rudyard Kipling, In the Neolithic Age

This page exists because I saw yet another post or comment telling new writers what they must do. One too many, and I had to respond.

The only thing a writer must do is write!

Anything else is what you might do. Maybe. If it works for you. And if it doesn’t, try something else.

For every “rule” you can name, I can point out successful writers who follow it, and successful writers who flout it. Kipling told us the truth: Every single one of them is right!

When someone tells you what you must do, they’re only telling you what they think they must do! And they may not be thinking at all. They may only be repeating a “rule” that somebody else told them. Or they may be telling you what works for them. Or what worked once for them. Or what they hope will work for them. Or…

My approach is Tools, Not Rules. A Tool is something you might try. A Rule is something you must use. It’s good to learn Tools. Learn lots of Tools! It’s okay to treat a Tool as a Rule if you’re comfortable with it and like the results. But it’s just a Tool. Be ready to set it aside and pick up another Tool if things don’t seem to be working.

And please think twice before you tell other writers that there’s a Rule they must follow.

Some of my thoughts on the Nine and Sixty Ways are available here…

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