Ten rules for writing fiction

I came across this link today – it is one of the best articles I have ever seen about writing fiction.

Inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, The Guardian newspaper asked authors for their personal rules for writing.  The rules often apply not just to writing long novels, but also to writing short stories…some of the rules are hilarious, and some are applicable to life in general, not just to writing!  (Make sure you click through to the second part of the article as well – loads more ‘rules’)

I would love to do an activity with these – perhaps a jigsaw group activity, or something where students were given a random selection to read and discuss.  They could make a poster of their favourite rule/s for the classroom wall.  They could form their own sets of rules…

Here are some of the rules that I like best:

  • Forget the boring old dictum “write about what you know”. Instead, seek out an unknown yet knowable area of experience that’s going to enhance your understanding of the world and write about that. – Rose Tremain
  • Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, eg “horse”, “ran”, “said”. – Roddy Doyle
  • Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils. – Margaret Atwood
  • Description is hard. Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand. – Anne Enright
  • Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer’s a good idea. – Richard Ford
  • The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator. – Jonathan Franzen
  • Never complain of being misunderstood. You can choose to be understood, or you can choose not to. – David Hare
  • The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying “Faire et se taire” (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as “Shut up and get on with it.” – Helen Simpson
  • Remember writing doesn’t love you. It doesn’t care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on. – Al Kennedy

Love it 😀  Good writing IS hard work, and students need to understand this if they want to refine their abilities.  It can also be a lonely task, solitary and isolating, and remembering that there is a whole community of writers out there, bunkered down at their desks and struggling to keep themselves in check, is a comfort.

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  1. Ten rules for writing fiction (via Kelli McGraw) « Philadelphia Stories Weblog

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