Tag Archives: Andrew Motion

One hundred and fifty ‘rules’ for writing fiction: 141 – 144

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A few more provocations on the writing life…

141).  A writer, like an athlete, must ‘train’ every day. What did I do today to keep in ‘form’?
  (Susan Sontag)

142).  If you’re actually allowing your creative part to control your writing rather than a more commercial instinct or motive, then you’ll find that all sorts of interesting things will bubble up to the surface.  (Emma Thompson)

143).  You will have to write and put away or burn a lot of material before you are comfortable in this medium. You might as well start now and get the necessary work done. For I believe that eventually quantity will make for quality. How so? Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come. All arts, big and small, are the elimination of waste motion in favor of the concise declaration. The artist learns what to leave out. His greatest art will often be what he does not say, what he leaves out, his ability to state simply with clear emotion, the way he wants to go. The artist must work so hard, so long, that a brain develops and lives, all of itself, in his fingers.  (Ray Bradbury)

144).  Write for tomorrow, not for today.  (Andrew Motion)

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).


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)