One hundred ‘rules’ for writing fiction: 67-71

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A return to provocations and stimuli from the great and the good about writing prose – pilfered from interviews in newspapers and at festival attendances over many years…

67. Listen to what you have written. A dud rhythm in a passage of dialogue may show that you don’t yet understand the characters well enough to write in their voices. (Helen Dunmore).

68. Don’t write in public places. In the early 1990s I went to live in Paris. The usual writerly reasons: back then, if you were caught writing in a pub in England, you could get your head kicked in, whereas in Paris, dans les cafés . . . Since then I’ve developed an aversion to writing in public. I now think it should be done only in private, like any other lavatorial activity.  (Geof Dyer)

69.  Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments.  (Isaac Asimov).

70. Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ­finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.  (Ann Enright).

71. Read lots.  Write lots.  Learn to be self-critical. Learn what criticism to accept. Be persistent. Have a story worth telling. Don’t give up.  (Ian Rankin).

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