Tag Archives: Roddy Doyle

One hundred and fifty ‘rules’ for writing fiction: 111 – 114

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More thoughts from those who have done it on how to do it….

111.)  A short story must have single mood and every sentence must build towards it.  (Edgar Allan Poe).

112). Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments. (Roddy Doyle).

113). For one thousand nights, before you sleep: Read one short story a night. Read one poem a night. Read one essay a night, from very diverse fields: politics, philosophy, religion, biology, anthropology, psychology, and so on. At the end of the one-thousand nights you’ll be full of stuff! All this stuff will be bouncing around in your head, and you’ll be able to come up with lots of new ideas. (Ray Bradbury).

114). Never worry about the commercial possibilities of a project. That stuff is for agents and editors to fret over – or not. Conversation with my American publisher. Me: “I’m writing a book so boring, of such limited commercial appeal, that if you publish it, it will probably cost you your job.” Publisher: “That’s exactly what makes me want to stay in my job.” (Geoff Dyer).

One hundred and fifty ‘rules’ for writing fiction: 106-110.

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Further stimuli on writing from the experts, garnered from interviews, festival appearances and articles.

106.  You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write. (Saul Bellow).

107.  Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph – until you get to page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it’s the job.  (Roddy Doyle).

108.  Write without pay until somebody offers pay; it nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for. (Mark Twain). 

109.  Art, though, is never the voice of a country; it is an even more precious thing, the voice of the individual, doing its best to speak, not comfort of any sort, but truth. And the art that speaks it most unmistakably, most directly, most variously, most fully, is fiction, in particular, the novel. (Eudora Welty). 

110. Do back exercises. Pain is distracting. (Margaret Atwood).

One hundred ‘rules’ for writing fiction: 87-91.

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Five more pieces of advice collected from interviews with writers of fiction.

87.  A writer’s past is the most important thing he has. Sometimes an object, a mask, a ticket stub, anything at all, helps me remember a whole experience, and out of that may come an idea for a story. (Ray Bradbury).

88. Never ride a bike with the brakes on. If something is proving too difficult, give up and do something else. Try to live without resort to per­severance. But writing is all about ­perseverance. You’ve got to stick at it. In my 30s I used to go to the gym even though I hated it. The purpose of ­going to the gym was to postpone the day when I would stop going. That’s what writing is to me: a way of ­postponing the day when I won’t do it any more, the day when I will sink into a depression so profound it will be indistinguishable from perfect bliss. (Geoff Dyer).

89.  Do spend a few minutes a day working on the cover biog – “He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego.” But then get back to work. (Roddy Doyle).

90.  Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell. (P.D. James).

91. Write. No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write. On you go. (A.L. Kennedy).

One hundred ‘rules’ for writing fiction: 42-46

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Further tips, pearls of wisdom, or words of warning on writing fiction, gleaned from interviews, festival appearances and articles:

42. Don’t follow trends. Aspire to set them. (KOR).

43.  Imagination is everything. What you do when you’re a novelist is play Let’s Pretend. Just like children do, but on an adult level. You become a prep school boy, a First World War soldier, a police detective. I can’t stress it enough. (Susan Hill).

44.  Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments. (Roddy Doyle).

45. The basic rule given us [when students] was simple and heartbreaking. A story to be effective had to convey something from the writer to the reader, and the power of its offering was the measure of its excellence. Outside of that, there were no rules. A story could be about anything and could use any means and any technique at all – so long as it was effective. As a subhead to this rule, it seemed to be necessary for the writer to know what he wanted to say, in short, what he was talking about. As an exercise we were to try reducing the meat of our story to one sentence, for only then could we know it well enough to enlarge it to three- or six- or ten-thousand words. (John Steinbeck).

46.  Don’t romanticise your “vocation”. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page. (Zadie Smith).