10 rules for writing fiction
The Guardian asked a line-up of eminent authors for their personal dos and don’ts for efficient fiction writing. The results, to say the least, ranged from entertaining to outrageous to hilarious: “Get an accountant, abstain from sex and similes, cut, rewrite, then cut and rewrite again – if all else fails, pray.”
So anyhow, to cut a long story short, though eminence is a far-off
nightmare dream, no harm in compiling a list of my own. Here’s hoping it doesn’t affect my relationship with my accountant, have a bearing on my sex life, or make me believe in religion…
- Uninstall all IM software: Really, truly. In fact, getting away from the Net is good, on the whole, except that it sometimes comes in handy to look things up. I have to admit, I don’t follow this rule. I’m bad.
- Don’t try to plot your novel if that doesn’t work for you: I find it impossible to plot out a scene-by-scene story. I just need to let stuff happen. I never expected Nira to catch the speld — she just did.
- Don’t worry about chapters: Working chapters is usually something I bluff my way through. A chapter break happens when I think to myself, “Oops, I haven’t had a new chapter for ages.” It seems to work. After all, Terry Pratchett doesn’t do chapters, does he? He’s inspirational!
- Characters without the right name have no life: I beg to differ with Shakespeare — the name is everything. A two-metre-tall nerdy Scandinavian called Bill would have turned out very different from Noah.
- Give yourself a deadline and treat it seriously: I promise myself a treat when (and if) I meet the deadline.
- Get some honest reviews: I’d rather know from friends that my precious work-in-progress is crap than from strangers.
- If you get stuck at some point in the story, move on to something else: No point being frustrated with a part that just isn’t coming together. I move on to writing something completely different or to another part of the story. When I come back to the problem later, I’m always surprised how much the break helped.
- Also, don’t write in chronological order if you don’t want to: I just write the bits I have figured out first and worry about what comes after what later on.
- Writer’s block happens: So no point fretting over it! I try and enjoy the break and not feel guilty about it.
- Free-writing really helps: In fact, they have proved to be an effective antidote to writer’s block for me.
If anyone has any other rules for themselves, I’m curious to hear.