25 February 2010

10 rules for writing

I try to avoid too much "writers on writing" stuff, but this is pretty good. The Guardian recently asked a smattering of writers for their ten rules for writing. Here are some highlights:
Will Self
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.

Sarah Waters
Treat writing as a job. Be disciplined. Lots of writers get a bit OCD-ish about this. Graham Greene famously wrote 500 words a day. Jean Plaidy managed 5,000 before lunch, then spent the afternoon answering fan mail. My minimum is 1,000 words a day – which is sometimes easy to achieve, and is sometimes, frankly, like shitting a brick, but I will make myself stay at my desk until I've got there, because I know that by doing that I am inching the book forward. Those 1,000 words might well be rubbish – they often are. But then, it is always easier to return to rubbish words at a later date and make them better.

Geoff Dyer
Do it every day. Make a habit of putting your observations into words and gradually this will become instinct. This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don't follow it.

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

Jonathan Franzen
Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money.

Neil Gaiman
The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

A. L. Kennedy
Read. As much as you can. As deeply and widely and nourishingly and irritatingly as you can. And the good things will make you remember them, so you won't need to take notes.

Phillip Pullman
My main rule is to say no to things like this, which tempt me away from my proper work.
If you read all the lists, you'll notice a number of common threads. I identified with the discipline issue the most. I'm always struggling to stop thinking about writing and actually, you know, doing it.

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