Writers’ Corner // Guest Post: The Four Rules of Writing

By Sanjiv Lingard

Last night, on the 28th Street subway, I saw two women deep in conversation.

My mind raced. Were they old friends, rivals, or maybe estranged lovers? If you’re like me, a story can spin out of an everyday observation. The secret is being able to get those stories out of your mind and put them on paper.

That takes work. Repetitive, day after day work.

work GIF

SCOUT (Matador 2019) is one of six novels I’ve written in the past eight years. Each one started with a dumb story I told myself as I was day-dreaming. I’d been writing bits and pieces since I was teenager, but in 2011 I decided to make an industry of it. I decided to write every single day (weekends excepted). SCOUT was written in six weeks, showing you the power of this technique. These are what I call Scout’s Four Rules:

1) Find a time to write that suits you.

Always write at this time.

2) Find a place to write with no distractions.

Lee Child might live overlooking Central Park, but I’ve heard that his writing room faces a blank wall. Ian Fleming lived at the fabled ‘Goldeneye’ in Jamaica, but he turned his desk from the beach to write his daily dose of Bond. After that he’d mix a Martini (shaken not stirred).

3) Write regularly and write a lot.

I don’t feel the day is done until I hit the 2000 word mark. Write that much, and you deserve a Martini.

4) And most importantly – let your imagination breathe.

Think about the story as you go about the boring stuff (you know – earning money, clearing out the kitty tray). Try out alternate scenarios to the one you’ve planned. There’s always a different way to approach a story, and you should lull yourself to sleep thinking of better ways to tell your story.

Look for the magic!

fireworks diwali GIF

When writing SCOUT, I already had the basis of the eponymous main character’s paranormal power – she could follow people trails. That idea had come to me when I took a horse ride with a Navajo guide in Monument Valley. So I thought it easy enough to imagine a 17 year old who uses the same skills to follow people in a small town in Illinois. But as I wrote the first chapter, I had a revelation.

I realised that a story about following people was boring – it was like a souped-up Sherlock Holmes. But what if Scout could follow people’s emotions? Suddenly the story took off. Scout could feel her mother’s emotions, a woman who is suffering from dementia so can no longer communicate properly. And Scout’s paranormal skill allows her to experience the fear of the abducted children she helps trace.

The new idea was like fireworks!

Discovering a new idea in my writing challenged me to write harder, and to dig deeper. I was excited by what I had discovered. Scout’s emotional connection to other people – her superpower – is the most special thing about the novel. This idea wouldn’t have come about if I had not been looking for the magic, and my eyes wouldn’t have been open to the magic if I hadn’t clocked-in each day as if going to work, and tapped out a mountain of words.

About the Writer

Sanjiv Lingard works in the creative industries in New York City. His portrait was drawn by his good friend P.G.

Author website: http://www.sanjivlingardauthor.com

Photo by Johann Trasch on Unsplash; Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

15 responses to “Writers’ Corner // Guest Post: The Four Rules of Writing”

  1. I’m an INFJ, too! It was kind of cool to see that in your bio.

    I love your four rules, and I really love what you did with Scout and her abilities. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Hi Staci – so good you enjoyed reading my Four Rules of Writing. They’re apparently simple, and also totally non-fun. It almost reads like a precept from ‘1984’ – work leads to freedom. Buit, strangely enough it does! Treat writing as a job, and you’ll be free of the anxieties of linking your ego to the work. It should fee you up to be more creative. Sanjiv.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Staci
      Thanks for reading my Four Rules of Writing. Reads like a precept from ‘1984’, right? Work=Freedom. But it’s true! Treating writing as a job (it’s often dull; its happens at a regular time; there is an obligation to turn up every day) means that your ego is taken out of the process. Now your imagination can run free, pretty much as it does at work. You can allow yourself to daydream. Seems counter-intuitive, but I don’t think any writer I know or have read about approaches the task any differently. Sanjiv

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Scout sounds like an interesting book.
    Do I understand it correctly that this was actually written by Sanjiv and not by you, Sophie?
    I think it would be beneficial to say something about that at the top of the post. Just an idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! Yes! This was written by Sanjiv. You’re right that it can be a bit confusing and thanks for pointing it out! I’ve indicated “guest post” in the title and in the header image, so hopefully this is less confusing now 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for receiving my feedback to graciously. I just went and saw your changes – definitely does the job!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No worries! Feedback is always good 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Floating Gold
      Yes, Sophie asked me to write about the process of writing SCOUT. The methods described clearly worked. Hope they’re of help. Sanjiv.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. A very good post indeed.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great guest post, and all good advice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks J.W. – hope it helps with your writing. Sanjiv

      Liked by 2 people

  4. This is super helpful!
    – Emma 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Molly's Book Nook Avatar
    Molly’s Book Nook

    Love this! I’m prepping for NaNoWriMo so writing advice is so helpful!


  6. […] Writers’ Corner // Guest Post: The Four Rules of Writing […]


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