There was a good article on The Guardian, ‘Ten rules for writing fiction‘, coming on the back of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.
The first rule I’m going to make up is; Learn who Elmore Leonard is.
If you’ve done any research into writing tips and rules you’ll have come across quite a few of these, especially the first rule of writing; write.
The best ones are the specific ones; ‘don’t open with the weather’, ‘do not search amazon.co.uk for the book you haven’t written yet’,’avoid detailed descriptions of characters’, ‘Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel.’ and ‘Do give the work a name as quickly as possible’.
There are some I’ll blatantly ignore; ‘learn poems by heart’, ‘keep a diary’, ‘write slowly and by hand’ and ‘have fun’.
Then there are some general points; ‘Remember writing doesn’t love you. It doesn’t care’, ‘If you get stuck, get away from your desk.’, ‘Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell’, ‘The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator’ and ‘Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.’
Some are ones I’ve read before and never really understood; ‘Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue’ – I’ll finish when I’m done or when my laptop has run out of battery power. I’m not stopping mid-sentence, mid-tense scene just as the axe has been raised.
The other one is, ‘Kill your darlings’ – sounds very poetic, ironic and heartbreaking but really, delete your best words and sentences? If a great sentence is out of context or not working then is it actually a ‘darling’? No, so kill it. I think this rule can be misconstrued as, ‘here’s a great sentence that adds to the chapter, story, the whole book, is beautifully put together…delete it’, that has to be wrong.
One tip from Zadie Smith is one I worked out a while ago – ‘Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet’.
My favourite piece of advice, or rather a musing reflection on the art itself, is from Will Self – ‘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.’
It makes me feel better in ignoring the previous rule of ‘have fun’.
The second rule I’d say is; don’t bastardise song titles for blog titles.