One hundred ‘rules’ for writing fiction: 57-61

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Further provocations and reflections on writing fiction (and poetry), extracted from interviews and articles collected over the years…

57.  When an idea comes, spend silent time with it. Remember Keats’s idea of Negative Capability and Kipling’s advice to “drift, wait and obey”. Along with your gathering of hard data, allow yourself also to dream your idea into being. (Rose Tremain).

58.  Read like mad. But try to do it analytically – which can be hard, because the better and more compelling a novel is, the less conscious you will be of its devices. It’s worth trying to figure those devices out, however: they might come in useful in your own work. I find watching films also instructive. Nearly every modern Hollywood blockbuster is hopelessly long and baggy. Trying to visualise the much better films they would have been with a few radical cuts is a great exercise in the art of story-telling. (Sarah Waters).

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

60.  Never stop when you are stuck. You may not be able to solve the problem, but turn aside and write something else. Do not stop altogether. (Jeanette Winterson).

61,  Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for. (Kurt Vonnegut).


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