The ten rules for writing fiction from all sorts of points of view

February 25, 2010 |

The Guardian has run a two part article on the Ten Rules for Writing Fiction.  I am not usually a sucker for numbered lists, you know the ones, 7 habits of highly effective psycopaths, 6 ways of getting to the same point but sounding pretentious about it etc..  Basically the article is well known authors giving their rules.  Some take it seriously some less so, eg the first fourt rules Margaret Atwood comes up with are:

1 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.

2 If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.

3 Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.

4 If you’re using a computer, always safeguard new text with a ­memory stick.

Hard to go wrong there.  The odd thing is that Margaret Attwood in interview is deadly dull and almost ethereal. Roddy Doyle’s list is a hoot, a sample:

1Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

2 Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph ­–


5 Do restrict your browsing to a few websites a day. Don’t go near the online bookies – unless it’s research.

6 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”.

7 Do, occasionally, give in to temptation. Wash the kitchen floor, hang out the washing. It’s research.

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 Commitments.

9 Do not search for the book you haven’t written yet.

And on they go.  Precious.  The second part is of the article is great too.

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