The first thing I’ll say to writers is that there’s no need to wait until you publish something to call yourself a writer. If you write, you are a writer. Second, there are no rules.

Well, that’s not totally true. Here are three that are generally accepted as good rules to follow:

1. Don’t use too many adverbs, especially not in dialogue tags. (“She laughed happily” is redundant, as is “He slammed the door angrily.”)
2. Avoid excessive use of semi-colons; they trip people up if there are too many. (See, didn’t you stop at that semi-colon and wonder why it was there?)
3. Avoid starting your story with the weather or with the character waking up or looking into the mirror (and conveniently describing to the reader what she looks like.)

But seriously, as a writer trying to stay on top of the industry and your craft, you will no doubt have rules flung at you at every turn:

You must use third person if you want to be taken seriously!

Detailed outlines are crucial before you write the first word!

Only send query letters on Tuesday!

These are not only rules meant to be broken, they are “rules” that can confuse, frustrate, and disappoint a writer who has found a different way that works for her or him. The trick is to know why those “rules” are in place so when you break them, it works—for you and for the story.

One bit of real advice from me to you—find your tribe of writing friends, partners, supporters. Much of the process of writing a book takes place when you’re alone—in your office, on your couch, in the library facing the wall to avoid distractions, in the quiet carpool line. It can get lonely. Having a group of people—real life, online, or both—who support your goals, give you encouragement or a kick in the pants when needed, and commiserate with you on your 45th agent rejection is so important. For the most part, writers are a generous and supportive bunch, always willing to give advice or help when asked. Tribes abound. Find yours.