I just read Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks. He has some rules and advice that I thought were worth repeating:
#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 equals growth; growth equals 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.
And then his “Final Thoughts”:
“Three character traits are essential–determination, instinct, and passion. Each has a place in a writer’s life; each acts as a a balance for the others. Determination teaches a writer to be patient; without it, commitment quickly fades. Instinct tells a writer which fork in the road to take; without it, as many wrong turns are taken as right. Passion imbues a writer with fearlessness; without it, no chances are ever taken. None of the three can be taught; all are a gift of genetics and early life experience.
There is a poetry in fiction. If you cannot see it and feel it when you write, you need to step back and examine what you are doing wrong. If you have not figured out how to write a simple declarative sentence and make it sing with that poetry, you are not yet ready to write an entire book.
If you do not hear music in your words, you have put too much thought into your writing and not enough heart.
If you do not ever wonder what happened to your characters after you stopped writing about them, you did not care enough about them in the first place and do not deserve to know.
If you think that by having published you will become a happier person, you are mistaken. If you think that the finished book is of greater value than what you learned from the writing process, you are mistaken yet again. If you think the acquisition of money and fame is the most important reason for writing and publishing, you need an attitude adjustment.
If you do not proof your work sufficiently, both as to content and grammar, you must not count on anyone else doing the job for you. You have a better chance of winning the Pulitzer.
If you are ever completely satisfied with something you have written, you are setting your sights too low. But if you can’t let go of your material even after you have done the best that you can with it, you are setting your sights too high.
If you do not love what you do, if you are not appropriately grateful for the chance to create something magical each time you sit down at the computer or with pencil and paper in hand, somewhere along the line your writing will betray you.
If you don’t think there is magic in writing, you probably won’t write anything magical.
If anything in your life is more important than writing–anything at all–you should walk away now while you still can. Forewarned is forearmed.
For those who cannot or will not walk away, you need only remember this.
Writing is life. Breathe deeply of it.”
–From Sometimes the Magic Works (p. 195-197)