One hundred ‘rules’ for writing fiction: 32-36

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Further nuggets of advice gleaned from the great and the good from interviews, articles, and reflections on how to write outstanding fiction:

32. The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. (Gustave Flaubert)

33.  Don’t panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends’ embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce . . . Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there’s prayer. St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too. (Sarah Waters)

34.   Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page. (Margaret Atwood)

35.  Think with your senses as well as your brain. (Andrew Motion)

36.  A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal. (Oscar Wilde)

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