Saturday, 27 February 2010

10 Rules for Writing Fiction

I'm sure everyone with even the vaguest interest in writing has already read or at least browsed the list after list of Ten Rules for Writing Fiction from a gamut of writers in the lovely Saturday Guardian last week. Now they are looking for feedback and for your ten rules for writing.

(I do like it when publications get involved in a dialogue with their readers. It really promotes the feeling of community.)

Claire Armitstead and Toby Litt ask

Which did you find particularly helpful?
Which did you find irrelevant?
What are your own rules for writing?

Rules I liked:

Elmore Leonard: Never use a verb other than said to carry dialogue.
Roddy Doyle: Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones.

Helen Dunmore: Finish the day's writing when you still want to continue.
Richard Ford: Try to think of others' good luck as encouragement to yourself.
PD James: Read widely and with discrimination.
AL Kennedy: Remember you love writing. It wouldn't be worth it if you didn't.

My rules:

1. Sit down and write. Everyday at least 10 words.
2. Don't beat yourself up everytime you break rule 1.
3. If you're not enjoying it, it's getting to be a slog, your reader will probably not be enjoying it either. Stop and regroup.
4. Always cut your finished piece at least 10%. Even 40%.
5. Join a writing group you trust, ask for feedback and listen to what they say. They're not always right but often they are.
6. Read widely, many genres, science fiction, children's books, poetry, blogs, watch good TV Drama (Doctor Who, Desparate Housewives, Sopranos) Films (ancient and modern, Film4 I love you) listen to music, opera, theatre. If it's good, work out WHY it's good.
7. Use public transport to eavesdrop. Listen in on conversations in shop queues, other people's mobile phone chat.
8. Always, always carry a notebook. Don't assume you'll remember that brilliant idea, nugget of chat, image, emotional response. Write it down.
9. Turn the internet off. (Hah!)
10. If you're stuck, move on to something else and sleep on it.

What about you?

Next (sometime anyway) my ten rules for Writing Poetry. Are they any different? Hell yes.


Titus said...

Sad Times reader here, so I missed it. Thanks for the link.
I like your rule 6. A lot. It's the only one I follow...

Emerging Writer said...

One rule to ring them all?!

Niamh Griffin said...

Agree about 'said' if only because it's one less thing to worry about!
And reading widely even if it's an excuse sometimes not to write myself, ahem. Same for the Internet - it's research innit?! I know, I know. My own number one is always write - fiction, blog, ideas or stories; hence the rather large notebook you laughed at!NOt quite large enough for Lord of the Rings though;)