Wednesday, March 10, 2010

10 Rules of Writing

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing is to be published soon by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Recently, the Sisters in Crime links, which I greatly enjoy, pointed me in the direction of a website, which means that I was breaking Roddy Doyle’s Rule #5: “Do restrict your browsing to a few websites a day. Don’t go near the online bookies—unless it’s research.”

But there was a treasure trove of honest information therein. Here are my 10 favorites, which I need to revisit often.
1. Jonathan Franzen’s #1: The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.
2. Roddy Doyle’s Rule #8: “Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitnents.”
3. Geoff Dyer’s #9: Do it [write] every day. Make a habit of putting your observations into words and gradually this will become instinct. This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don’t follow it.
4. Geoff Dyer’s #10: Never ride a bike with the brakes on. If something is proving too difficult, give up and do something else. Try to live without resort to perseverance. But writing is all about perseverance. You’ve got to stick at it. In my 30s I used to go to the gym even though I hated it. The purpose of going to the gym was to postpone the day when I would stop going. That’s what writing is to me: a way of postponing the day when I won’t do it anymore, the day when I will sink into a depression so profound it will be indistinguishable from perfect bliss.
5. Anne Enright’s #1: The first 12 years are the worst.
6. Anne Enright’s #3: Only bad writers think that their work is really good.
7. Anne Enright’s # 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. Easy. And no one had to die.
9. Richard Ford’s # 9 and 10 (yeah, I know I’m cheating): Try to think of others’ good luck as encouragement to yourself. And—I love this—Don’t take any shit if you can possibly help it.
10. Helen Dunmore’s Rule #1: Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue.

This was too much fun, I may have to pick another 10 favorites—there’s some great advice here. Here’s the website address, because you’ll want to pick out some of your own. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one

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