We don’t need no stinking rules
Last week the Guardian newspaper ran a feature called Ten rules for writing fiction in which they invited a number of published authors including Will Self, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle and Hilary Mantel to suggest their ten dos and don’ts for writing.
The first thing you can take from this article is that writers are rubbish at following directions. Many fail to come up with ten rules. Some even submit only one, although when Philip Pullman does this, it is by brilliantly stating that his only rule is to not participate in “this sort of thing” as it distracts from the task of writing.
Many of the rules however are more to do with the ins and outs of living as a writer, rather than the nuts and bolts of actually writing fiction like they were asked.
Perhaps the most useful advice comes from Neil Gaiman, whose first three rules can be boiled down to “write until you’ve finished”.
The most acerbically incisive advice comes from British author Will Self. His fifth bit of advice should be hewn in stone above every writer’s desk for those moments when the doubts start to creep in:
You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished.
Of course, there really is only one rule to writing, and mercifully many of the writers cover it. That rule is this:
The article well worth reading for inspiration and advice. There are two parts, the first part is linked above, and the second part is found here.
Do you have any rules you follow that haven’t been suggested by these luminaries of the literary world? Leave your comment below…