Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

The Guardian asked twen­ty nine writ­ers to give their 10 Rules for Writ­ing Fic­tion. Those giv­en by Jonathan Franzen (The Cor­rec­tions) were arguably the pithi­est, and we list them below. The full line­up of writ­ers (includ­ing Elmore Leonard, Mar­garet Atwood, and Richard Ford) can be found here. (The New York­er has since fol­lowed up with some com­men­tary on the Guardian list.)

  • The read­er is a friend, not an adver­sary, not a spec­ta­tor.
  • Fic­tion that isn’t an author’s per­son­al adven­ture into the fright­en­ing or the unknown isn’t worth writ­ing for any­thing but mon­ey.
  • Nev­er use the word “then” as a con­junc­tion – we have “and” for this pur­pose. Sub­sti­tut­ing “then” is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solu­tion to the prob­lem of too many “ands” on the page.
  • Write in the third per­son unless a real­ly dis­tinc­tive first-per­son voice ­offers itself irre­sistibly.
  • When infor­ma­tion becomes free and uni­ver­sal­ly acces­si­ble, volu­mi­nous research for a nov­el is deval­ued along with it.
  • The most pure­ly auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal fic­tion requires pure inven­tion. Nobody ever wrote a more auto bio­graph­i­cal sto­ry than “The Meta­morphosis”.
  • You see more sit­ting still than chas­ing after.
  • It’s doubt­ful that any­one with an inter­net con­nec­tion at his work­place is writ­ing good fic­tion.
  • Inter­est­ing verbs are sel­dom very inter­est­ing.
  • You have to love before you can be relent­less.

via @kirstinbutler

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