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, The Guardian asked authors for their personal dos and don’ts.
Set over a series of posts, here are those authors rules of writing. Some are more serious than others, feel free to accept, reject or adapt as required.
1. Proceed slowly and take care.
2. To ensure that you proceed slowly, write by hand.
3. Write slowly and by hand only about subjects that interest you.
4. Develop craftsmanship through years of wide reading.
5. Rewrite and edit until you achieve the most felicitous phrase / sentence / paragraph / page / story / chapter.
My main rule is to say no to things like this, which tempt me away from my proper work.
1. Read lots.
2. Write lots.
3. Learn to be self-critical.
4. Learn what criticism to accept.
5. Be persistent.
6. Have a story worth telling.
7. Don’t give up.
8. Know the market.
9. Get lucky.
10. Stay lucky.
1. Don’t look back until you’ve written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the preceeding day. This prevents those cringing feelings, and means that you have a substantial body of work before you get down to the real work which is all in . . .
2. The edit.
3. Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.
4. Stop reading fiction – it’s all lies anyway, and it doesn’t have anything to tell you that you don’t know already (assuming, that is, you’ve read a great deal of fiction in the past; if you haven’t you have no business whatsoever being a writer of fiction).
5. 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.
6. Live life and write about life. Of the making of many books there is indeed no end, but there are more than enough books about books.
7. By the same token 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 . . .”
8. The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement – if you can’t deal with this you needn’t apply.
9. Oh, and not forgetting the occasional beating administered by the sadistic guards of the imagination.
10. Regard yourself as a small corporation of one. Take yourself off on team-building exercises (long walks). Hold a Christmas party every year at which you stand in the corner of your writing room, shouting very loudly to yourself while drinking a bottle of white wine. Then masturbate under the desk. The following day you will feel a deep and cohering sense of embarrassment.