These are not my own ‘rules’ but snippets of advice I’d gleaned from various books and podcasts on writing.
1. Cut the first page. It’s set-up. (Chekhov advises to cut the first three pages!) Cut to the chase. Get straight to the story.
2. Be strict with POV (point of view).
3. Start your story immediately after a dramatic event.
4. Like Ouroboros your story should also have its tail in its mouth – connect the ending to the beginning.
5. Know your ending.
6. Set up ‘plot points’ – clues in the text that point to the reveal – so when you smack the reader in the face with your twist all of your foreshadowing clues will burst into light.
7. Cut ALL adjectives and adverbs until your story is ‘bare bones’. Re-add sparsely and with great care.
8. Rewrite 6 times: for light, sound, touch, taste, smell and sight.
9. Be spare with metaphor.
10. Avoid cliches. Be original. Hold every word up to the light.
Sue Moorcroft, head judge of Writers’ Forum, gives her own advice here.