1. Thou shalt have no other gods before God. Neither publication nor fame nor even writing itself shall be your god, but God alone.

2. Thou shalt not make of your writing an idol, serving it as if it is sovereign. Nor shall you look to your gift or craft for the fulfillment and satisfaction and joy only Christ can give in himself.

3. Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain, but shall write ultimately for the fame of his name, not for your own.

4. Thou shalt take a day off every week.

5. Honor your father and your mother. Even if you’re writing about your troubled childhood, don’t do so in ways that shame your parents or throw them under the bus for cheap laughs or tears.

6. Thou shalt not murder, not even in your heart when another writer writes well or when a critic savages your work or when you think somebody stole your idea.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. If writing is your mistress, it’s still cheating on your spouse. And you’re not fooling everybody by trying to “keep it real” with the sexuality in your book.

8. Thou shalt not steal anybody’s joy or time. Nor shall you steal anybody’s work and pass it off as your own.

9. Thou shalt not tell lies. Even when writing fiction, tell the truth.

10. Thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s gifts, praise, success, or livelihood.

The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second is like it: Love your reader as yourself.

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12 thoughts on “The Ten Commandments for Writers”

  1. Gabe says:

    I’m going to have to have you clarify number nine:

    9. Thou shalt not tell lies. Even when writing fiction, tell the truth.

    Specifically, as someone who has written a LOT of fiction, I’d like to know what you mean by this. I can see a number of possible ways you mean this, but I would say that I just want to know better what you’re thinking.

  2. Jared C. Wilson says:

    Gabe, even made-up stories have messages. Christians who write fiction have an obligation to convey truth — about people, about the world, even about God.

    I don’t mean that Christians who write fiction must write didactically or create propaganda. The Lord of the Rings is full of truth and beauty, for instance.

    Sorting out the difference between telling the truth and propagandizing is an important distinction for Christians who are artists, I think.

  3. Gabe says:

    Almost precisely what I thought you meant, but I wanted to be sure. This is an area, in my writing, I have struggled greatly with: presenting truth even in the midst of a fantastic and wild story.

    Further, I find it’s quite a challenge to actually have my characters believe and tell lies that I disbelieve. I know they believe them, but I find it hard to present that accurately and within the bounds of narrative. If that makes any sense.

  4. Bill says:

    Jared, this is fabulous. At first I thought it was going to be some sort of humor piece, but, while it has some humor in it, it’s actually a very good application of the ten commandments applied to writers. Great stuff.

  5. Jonathan says:

    #9 was humor. Gosh guys, grow up

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Jonathan, #9 is not humor. I am trying to remind authors of fiction to tell the truth about the world and the people in it. This is not the same thing as writing non-fiction.

  6. Ryan says:

    So basically just be a Christian when you write, too…

  7. Darrell says:

    I enjoyed this. With rule #7… “And you’re not fooling everybody by trying to ‘keep it real’ with the sexuality in your book.” I understand that some artists use sex as a shock factor gimmick, but at the same time certainly an author can, in fact, “keep it real” in regards to sexuality. Would you agree?

  8. KC McGinnis says:

    Perfect! I am going to keep this at the top of my writing folder. Now, will you be adapting the rest of Exodus for writers any time soon?

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Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. You can follow him on Twitter.

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