Kurt Vonnegut, one of the most influential writers of this century, passed down a simple list of rules for writing the perfect short story.
However, he did mention that Flannery O’Connor broke all his rules except the first, and that great writers tend to do that, but I believe his famous eight rules can provide a proper framework for writing fiction that genuinely engages others.
And I think that this is what’s really important in art. A foundation. Simply by reading or following rules, or by taking creative writing courses, but it’s also crucial for the artist to make his own decisions. The moment rules start feeling like a cage, you should escape. It’s like strolling through a garden and picking the flowers you like. If you absorb too much or if you simply follow rules (someone else is choosing what flowers you should pick), you’ll never develop a style of your own.
In a world of fixed rules, there’s no room for improvement. Or improvisation. Or evolution.
That's why today we're going to analyze Vonnegut’s famous rules.
1. "Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted."
I think this is the most difficult rule. How do you do that? How can you be sure that others will enjoy what you write? I don’t know who said this, but it’s true: the moment writing feels like homework, you should stop. If you write about something you’re passionate about, some people are going to enjoy reading it.
If there are parts in your stories that YOU skip reading, then by all means delete them. If there are parts that you feel don’t work, edit them.
To paraphrase Stephen King, you should kill your darlings.