One of my greatest distractions from writing is reading what other writers have written about the craft. This is no minor area of publication, for if you happen to visit any decent-sized bookstore, you will see quite a few book titles that deal with this subject matter. Some may be writers with great name recognition such as Ray Bradbury, Stephen King or Orson Scott Card, while others may be known mostly to other writers, such as Mary Pipher or Dorothea Brande.
Anyway it is always fun to read comments by other writers, especially when I have a deadline due the next day.
Another item that has been making the rounds of literary journals lately, are lists of writing rules, which seem to conveniently come in quantities of ten. Actually, this is a great concept for readers like myself , who can now browse through a simple short list instead of tackling a whole book, just to receive literary advice. I might even get my assignments in on time.
Recently, February 20, 2010 to be exact, “The Guardian”, a highly respected British newspaper, has jumped into the game and published several lists of ten from a selected short list of contemporary writers. In an article titled, “Ten Rules For Writing Fiction”, the newspaper has published an online article that features lists from Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James and AL Kennedy. Though not familiar with every name, the lists provided a fun read with some good laughs and sound advice. Here are my personal favorites. Hope you enjoy.
1. The first 12 years are the worst. (Anne Enright)
2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down. (Neil Gaiman)
3. The two most depressing words in the English language are “literary fiction”. (David Hare)
4. Do not place a photograph of your favorite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide. (Roddy Doyle)
5. A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk. (Helen Dunmore)
6. Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire. (Geoff Dyer)
7. Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer’s a good idea. (Richard Ford)
8. The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page. (Anne Enright)
9. Do back exercises. Pain is distracting. (Margaret Atwood)
10. 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. (Al Kennedy)
extra rule (Elmore Leornard): My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
So there you go. Advice from the experts that is guaranteed to steer you in the right direction. This little tidbit came from an Australian literary agent’s blog, entitled “Call My Agent”, which is an excellent resource for writers, who have completed their first (or second or third) novel and are seeking representation. Check it out.