Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

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1 March 2010

I’ve never been much for writing “rules.”  When students ask me for the “rule” on something, I exasperate them with my predictable answer: “It depends.”

But The Guardian culled Ten Rules lists from such a wonderful array of writers, this one is worth reading — for a good laugh (or a dark one), writing inspiration (i.e. reminders of what it is we’re doing here, why we’re doing it, and how crazy it actually is), and reality check (Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel: “Are you serious about this?  Then get an accountant.”)  I especially liked Anne Enright‘s list:

1 The first 12 years are the worst.

2 The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page.

3 Only bad writers think that their work is really good.

4 Description is hard. Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.

5 Write whatever way you like. Fiction is made of words on a page; reality is made of something else. It doesn’t matter how “real” your story is, or how “made up”: what matters is its necessity.

6 Try to be accurate about stuff.

7 Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ­finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.

8 You can also do all that with whiskey.

9 Have fun.

10 Remember, if you sit at your desk for 15 or 20 years, every day, not ­counting weekends, it changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free.

Thanks to Wendy for sending this along.

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