>Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

>Writer friends are passing around an amusing link that’s actually two links. First we’ve got Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules for Writing Fiction. With the preamble that “using adverbs is a mortal sin,” he offers such sound advice as “never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue” and “use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.” It’s a good list, I recommend it; people shell out big bucks for MFAs and this is basically what they learn.

But then there’s Ten Rules for Writing Fiction (Part Two) in which several writers offer their own versions. Booker prize-winner Hilary Mantel suggests (among other things) getting an accountant. Joyce Carol Oates (who, for some reason, could only come up with seven rules), advises writers to “be alert to the possibilities of paragraphing.” Hmm. Annie Proulx (only five rules!) is all about taking it slow, and doing things, like writing longhand, to ensure that you do. Ian Rankin thinks all we need to do is be persistent and get lucky. Jeanette Winterson says, “Trust your creativity!” And that’s probably the best advice of all.

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  1. >Thanks Cliff for the link to 10 Rules Part 2. Hadn't seen that and got a kick out of it. Like JCO's pithy voice.

  2. >If only hundreds of thousands of words could be put down through the lens of ten rules, we'd all be published authors. Sigh.

  3. >I loved this feature, and read the actual print edition — hmmm, kind of gives away which country I live in now.

    Luck surely does have a lot to do with it. Who hasn't seen great stories from other writers, and learned that these writers could not get their stories published, could not get agents etc? And who hasn't seen crap writers who nevertheless make millions somehow?

    Paul Epstein

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