Fans may be surprised to know that, before he was a mega-bestselling author, Tom Clancy was a simple insurance agent. From those humble beginnings, he created a spy book phenomenon that encompassed over 100 million volumes sold, multiple movies, and even a video game. Although Clancy never wrote down a specific list of rules for writing bestselling novels, he was always helpful when beginning authors turned to him for advice. Between publicity interviews and author lectures, he gave out numerous bits of advice on writing, and here are the top five rules he shared multiple times.
1. Don't Just Write, Tell a Story
Don't worry about impressing critics with fancy phrases and beautiful, lyrical sentences. Your audience is your readers, not the reviewers. Think about connecting with your readers and telling them a great story. Your goal is to take your reader away from their everyday life and give them some enjoyment for a few hours. If you've caused them to sink into the story and forget about their lives for a while, you've done your job well.
2. The Act of Writing is Like Learning to Play Golf
People talk about following their muse, and having been born with literary talent, but the truth is that learning to write books that readers like is just like learning to play a good game of golf. There's no divine inspiration, just a lot of hard work. Start doing it, then do it again and again until you get it right. Then doing it again some more. It's like learning to develop anything else into a habit. Set a schedule and don't let yourself skip any days. The more you write, the better you'll get at writing.
3. It's Got to Make Sense
The difference between real life and fiction is that fiction has got to make sense. How many times have you read a scene, then thought, "Come on! That would never happen." Coincidences happen in real life, but all the details in your novel have to hang together in a logical progression. Make one editing pass with a critical eye aimed toward disbelief. Is it realistic to think that everything could happen? Even super spies and fantasy dragons have to make sense in their own context.
4. There's No Such Thing as Writer's Block
Don't even think about it. Don't let the possibility of writer's block even enter your head. Writing is your job, so get to work. Authors who rely on writer's block as an excuse will never hit their goals when they need to. Plumbers don't have plumber's block, bankers don't have banker's block. Writers aren't any different. It's not magic, just a lot of hard work, day after day.
5. Dreams Can't Die
No matter what happens in the world, you can still hang on to your dream and work toward it coming true. Life may be hard, jobs and family get in the way, finances are tough, but that dream can still be growing deep down inside, getting ready to spring out and grow. Keep this in mind if you ever get discouraged in your dream to be an author. It's your dream, and no one can take it away from you.
Keep the Faith and May the Force be with You!