One hundred ‘rules’ for writing fiction: 16-21








Further thoughts and quotations on writing I’ve collected over the years:

16. Have more than two irons in the fire at any time. I try to be reading research material for a project that’s forming whilst revising or working on a developed project – that way if I want a day off from something, I’m still being productive. It’s good to feel I’m playing truant – whilst also knowing I’m moving forward. (KOR)

17. Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks.”  (Elmore Leonard)

18.  Find your best time of the day for writing and write. Don’t let anything else interfere. Afterwards it won’t matter to you that the kitchen is a mess.    (Esther Freud)

19. Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.  (Margaret Atwood)

20. All through my career I’ve written 1,000 words a day – even if I’ve a hangover. You’ve got to discipline yourself if you’re professional. There’s no other way.   (J.G.Ballard)

21. Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire.  (Geoff Dyer)

5 responses to “One hundred ‘rules’ for writing fiction: 16-21

  1. Rule 17 is a downer, because I have a prologue in my book – but I defend its right to be there – It certainly wouldn’t be as effective as back-story later on.
    But then sometimes rules are their for breaking. Have you come across William Safire’s rules. I put them on my blog post – “The Joy of Writing”

    • ‘Rules’ are in speech marks. As I stated in the first post, 1-9, rules are there to be learnt from, then subverted and broken…
      And we all have the right to agree or disagree with others’ opinions – but if ten doctors tell you to lie down… LIE DOWN!

  2. These are great! Thank you.


  3. What wonderful wisdom! 21 has really changed my mind about the nature of regret. I look forward to 22 – 100!

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