Here is a post at Writer’s Write: John Grisham’s 8 Do’s And Don’ts For Popular Fiction.
Here are the 8 rules, mostly stripped down to just the rule itself. For the comments under each rule, click through to the post.
1. Do — Write A Page Every Day
2. Don’t — Write The First Scene Until You Know The Last
This necessitates the use of a dreaded device commonly called an outline. Virtually all writers hate that word. I have yet to meet one who admits to using an outline.
Plotting takes careful planning. Writers waste years pursuing stories that eventually don’t work.
3. Do — Write Your One Page Each Day At The Same Place And Time
4. Don’t — Write A Prologue
5. Do — Use Quotation Marks With Dialogue
6. Don’t — Keep A Thesaurus Within Reaching Distance
7. Do — Read Each Sentence At Least Three Times In Search Of Words To Cut
8. Don’t — Introduce 20 Characters In The First Chapter
Several of these are questionable, but the one I bolded above is soooo easy for outliners to spit out — You must outline the complete book before you start writing! This method is the only one that works! — and so annoying to those of us who don’t (sometimes can’t) do this.
In a few weeks, when you read Shadow Twin, you will hopefully find that the plot possesses reasonable coherence. In case this sort of thing interests you, I will just tell you up front that I literally did not know what the climactic scenes would involve until I was 100,000 words in. I remember clearly the moment when the ending of the book suddenly fell into place. It did not take very long at all to go back and nudge the earlier part of the book so that it would be in line with the ending.
As for the very last scene, I wrote that way after finishing the book, after Laura Florand told me she found the ending of the earlier draft too abrupt.
Also, this morning I roughly outlined the 4th book of the series, Copper Mountain. Except for the ending. I don’t know what’s going to happen at the end. I decline to worry about this, no matter who assures me that I’m Doing It Wrong if I don’t have a clear view of the last scene when I write the first.
One last note, though.
I did write the entire sequel to House of Shadows because I had the ending scene in mind and wanted to write that particular scene. If you happen to remember that as you read that Door Into Light, maybe you’ll remember this post, compare it to Shadow Twin, and decide for yourself whether you think the books differ dramatically in their respective tightness of plotting. If anything, I would say, Door Into Light is substantially less tight in plotting than Shadow Twin — but read them both and decide for yourself.
Also! To go back to the full list of eight rules: Why bother with a rule about using quote marks in dialogue? Who out there is not using quote marks in dialogue? (Other than Cormac McCarthy.) That does not strike me as super-important rule to put out there if you’re trying to come up with eight important rules for writers.
Look, I hate to criticize without trying to be helpful, so I will just provide a better, more universal set of 8 rules for writers who want to be successful:
1) Finish at least some of the stories you start.
2) Don’t slavishly follow any rules for writers, even the ones promulgated by famous bestselling authors.
3) But do have a decent grasp of standard grammar and break grammatical rules with intent, not by accident.
4) Read a lot in your chosen genre.
5) Read a lot outside your chosen genre.
6) Read nonfiction to deepen your worldbuilding, if that matters to you.
7) Don’t expect your tenth book to be easier to write than your first.
8) Don’t focus on negative reviews.
There you go: Eight rules that I think are a lot more universal — if only because fewer of them are prescriptions and proscriptions about the actual writing process. Those are just always going to be iffy.