Helen Gurly Brown’s Legacy: “Writer’s Rules”

Helen Gurly Brown’s Legacy: “Writer’s Rules”
Helen Gurly Brown’s recent death brought back memories of how Sex and the Single Girl, the book that made her famous, resonated with single women and inspired Brown to start Cosmopolitan magazine. But it’s a lesser known work that Brown authored—The Writer’s Rules: The Power Of Positive Prose: How To Create It And Get It Published—that has a few lessons for our members here at Write My Memoirs.
If you would like to spend an interesting half hour, check out the video interview of Helen Gurly Brown on the PBS program, The Open Mind, in which she discusses her “writer’s rules.” Although the book has many more, in the interview Helen shares five rules:
1. Don’t use the same word more than once in a sentence or even in a paragraph.
2. Use “it” and “that” sparingly and never to start a sentence.
3. Vary your sentence structure. Don’t become monotonous with, “I worked in a factory. I assembled parts. I enjoyed my work. I had hobbies, too.”
4. Stick to the subject. Don’t force the reader to go back and figure out what you’re talking about.
5. Avoid cliches. It’s lazy to rely on old sayings instead of creatively coming up with your own ways of expressing thoughts.
During the interview, Helen encouraged everyone who wanted to write to just get started! Keep a journal, she advised. Write love letters. Email your friends to tell them what you’ve been doing. She reminds viewers that she was 40 when her first book was published.
“Writing is not a chore,” she says in the interview. “It doesn’t take self-discipline. It’s really kind of an indulgence to write about yourself, to write your thoughts, to write your dreams.” That’s exactly what we think here at Write My Memoirs!

Helen Gurly Brown’s recent death brought back memories of how Sex and the Single Girl, the book that made her famous, resonated with single women and inspired Brown to start Cosmopolitan magazine. But it’s a lesser known work that Brown authored—The Writer’s Rules: The Power Of Positive Prose: How To Create It And Get It Published—that has a few lessons for our members here at Write My Memoirs.

If you would like to spend an interesting half hour, check out the video interview of Helen Gurly Brown on the PBS program, The Open Mind, in which she discusses her “writer’s rules.” Although the book has many more, in the interview Helen shares five rules:

  1. Don’t use the same word more than once in a sentence or even in a paragraph.
  2. Use “it” and “that” sparingly and never to start a sentence.
  3. Vary your sentence structure. Don’t become monotonous with, “I worked in a factory. I assembled parts. I enjoyed my work. I had hobbies, too.”
  4. Stick to the subject. Don’t force the reader to go back and figure out what you’re talking about.
  5. Avoid cliches. It’s lazy to rely on old sayings instead of creatively coming up with your own ways of expressing thoughts.

During the interview, Helen encourages everyone who wants to write to just get started! Keep a journal, she advises. Write love letters. Email your friends to tell them what you’ve been doing. She reminds viewers that she was 40 when her first book was published.

“Writing is not a chore,” she says in the interview. “It doesn’t take self-discipline. It’s really kind of an indulgence to write about yourself, to write your thoughts, to write your dreams.” That’s exactly what we think here at Write My Memoirs!