Sunday, 21 February 2010


From Guardian Online: Ten rules for writing fiction
Get an accountant, abstain from sex and similes, cut, rewrite, then cut and rewrite again – if all else fails, pray. Inspired by Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, we asked authors for their personal dos and don'ts...

I have picked out some 'rules' I smiled at because I believe 'em too. But the whole article is wonderful, thought provoking, and good to read.

Only bad writers think that their work is really good. Anne Enright

Don't wait for inspiration. Discipline is the key.
Esther Freud

Style is the art of getting yourself out of the way, not putting yourself in it. David Hare.

Defend yourself. Find out what keeps you happy, motivated and creative. A L Kennedy

(she has another about using stories from your family, friends, under the title Defend others. She means using their life events, characteristics, and disguising them so that the originator is unrecogniseable!)

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. A L Kennedy

Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer's a good idea. Richard Ford.

The whole article is HERE


Rachel Fenton said...

So it's a good thing to think everything I write is terrible? Neat. Sometimes I think something's good but then I remind myself there is no such thing as good or bad in true critical terms and a week or two in the bottom drawer goes to prove it was rubbish all along!

Do you ever get past the stage of wanting to rewrite everything you've ever written?

Jenzarina said...

Thanks for posting a link to the article - I think I agreed with all of them but 2!
It's always good to hear what writers have to say about their passion.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Rachel - Yup - I think we need to be a bit schizophrenic in the non-clinical sense. We need to write what we do - tip out the words, and make clay, if you like. And then we need to have faith, and know that there will be something good, that the next bit is as important - editing, shaping, changing. It's tough!

So not exactly that we think those words are 'terrible' but that they need working on before they are as good as they can be. Thats the faith bit - knowing your work is good and will be good.

And nope, I never get past that stage, or havent yet. There's always something I'd tweak -

Hi Jenzarina - which one didnt you agree with? The 'dont wait for inspiration', bit? I tell you, this novel would never have got written if id waite for that. Sometimes, it flowed fine. Other times it was like walking through molasses... and the editing still is!

Elizabeth Baines said...

Seems to me that for every bit of advice from one writer there's an opposite from another: eg in today's Guardian Jeaneatte Winterson says there's no point forcing it, you've got to wait for it to come. Each to his/her own strategy, in other words...

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi E

I think so! But you are right when you say the points made by a writer you chime with, will often chime with your ethos...(I saw the comments on your blog yesterday too)

I loved what A L Kenndy said, most of the bits chimed. Whereas the others, it would be one or two 'rules'.

Jenzarina said...

There was one 'Don't have children', which I can see the point of but a bit harsh! And one 'never use metaphors/similies' or something. There wouldn't be any words left!

But almost everyone said 'it shouldn't sound like writing' which is perfect advice.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I guess it is true, though that having kids doesnt actively 'help' a writer, but more gets in the way!

My own ... 'Mum! Did you know the boys at school are passing round your book - you know -THAT scene...'

enough to send me back to writing about cats and kittens.

Elizabeth Baines said...

J: I went haring over to the shelves to check the simile/metaphor thing out: Atwood uses similes brilliantly if sparingly. And I'm just not sure how one can write without metaphor - often its where the subtext lies, and I'm damn sure that many of the writers who say they deplore it use it subtler ways than they know.

The kids thing. Well, if I had a thou for the hours I spent with my kids when I could be writing I'd be v rich. But if someone could give me a thou for every word I've written AS A RESULT OF HAVING KIDS I'd be far, far richer...