Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

The Guardian recently asked quite a few authors -- including Philip Pullman -- to give them 10 rules for writing fiction.

I think some of my favorites were from David Hare --"Write only when you have something to say." and, even more useful: "Never take advice from anyone with no investment in the outcome." That one I've learned the hard way and I'm not sure I'd know how true it is if I hadn't. It's a lot easier for someone to make a comment off the top of his head than for this writer to get the suggestion (no matter how wrong or ridiculous it is) out of HER head!

But I shouldn't quote. See what you think.

Warning: some are really silly in that English way, some I really disagreed with. But I like that -- and I like how English many of the answers are -- they did ask some Americans, but most of the authors are English. The writing in English newspapers always seems so crisp and articulate compared to ours. Maybe English writers (or newspaper owners??) are less afraid to offend someone-- or sound silly, un-PC, or critical:

"It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction."

"Only bad writers think their work is really good."

I also found lots of the advice encouraging, especially how many authors -- even those who have published lots of books -- are super-self-critical and obviously find writing, and even, sitting down to write, REALLY HARD. If you read the Rules, I'd love to know which ones you liked and which ones you didn't.


Grace Lin said...

Thanks, Libby--these are fun. My favorite: "Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide." Ha!

alexandra said...

I really liked what Anne Enright said about writing everyday, year after year.

" changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free."