This is my favourite article on writing that I’ve ever read. An absolute must for any writer. Tens of wonderful writers have all offered their own lists of ’10 rules for writing fiction’.
Here’s just a few highlights.
- Elmore Leonard – Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”.
- Neil Gaiman – Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
- Will Self – Remember how much time people spend watching TV. If you’re writing a novel with a contemporary setting there need to be long passages where nothing happens save for TV watching: “Later, George watched Grand Designs while eating HobNobs. Later still he watched the shopping channel for a while . . .”
- Geoff Dyer – Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something.
- Phillip Pullman only gave one answer, he said “My main rule is to say no to things like this, which tempt me away from my proper work.”
On that note maybe I should get on with some proper work!