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10 Fiction Writing Rules

The Guardian posted a great article on 10 Rules for Writing Fiction, asking literary greats to share their personal rules of writing fiction (thanks to Nathan Bransford, who always seems to know everything about anything related to publishing, for this link).  It’s an amazingly varied list–testament to how the experience of writing is different for every writer.  I’m no Elmore Leonard, Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, or similar, but I thought I’d do my own list here.

1 – Have something to say

2 – Say it in the way you would tell a friend a really important secret–no fancy prose.  You’re just telling someone you love something that means a lot to you.

3 – Be honest–resist the temptation to make your characters extraordinary human beings.  Make them human beings.  That, in itself, is extraordinary.

4 – Write about people you care about–create characters that you want to be around, and your readers will want to be around them as well.

5 – Make someone feel strongly–it doesn’t have to be joy.  It can be sorrow, hope, despair, terror, love, anything. We need to feel strongly.  It reminds us that we’re alive.

6 – Get writing–planning, thinking, talking about writing is all well and good, but if you want anyone to read it, you first need to put the words on paper.

7 – Realize this may never make you any money–still worth writing, in those spare wee hours of morning?  Good.

8 – Let someone read it–those hours spent following agent blogs, reading submission guidelines, re-submitting queries–those are all part of an effort to be read.  Yes, it’s personal.  Yes, it’s your soul on a platter.  You still need it to be read.

9 – Believe in your writing–maybe you aren’t good enough to do your story justice, but fretting about it does nothing.  It’s your story, so it’s your responsibility to write it, and to believe in it.

10 – Remember that you love it–we forget, sometimes, with all the stress of querying, editing, etc. that we love this.  We love, love, LOVE what we’ve created.  That’s the whole point.  Forget this, and you may as well give up and become an accountant.  The hours are shorter and the pay is better.

  1. Lua
    March 1, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    I’ve been reading those lists for the past couple days and thinking what would I say if I had to make a list but you beat me to it hehe 🙂
    I loved your list, especially #3 and #10… I love reading ordinary stories of ordinary people! When they are written well, I think they make bigger impact on me than those stories with extraordinary human beings in it…
    And I have to agree with you %100 on #10! It is so easy to get lost in all the hustle of the business and forget why we are doing all this… It’s simply because we LOVE it 🙂

    • March 2, 2010 at 9:14 pm

      Well, we all have our own list, I suppose. I find No.8 most difficult, though it naturally follows that I struggle with No.9 as well.

      And yes, once we forget we love it, all is lost.

  2. March 2, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Thanks for pointing out these top 10 lists. They are very intriguing. Writers are all different I guess. I’ll have to think about my top 10, but I think your list about covers it. Thanks for the post!

  3. March 2, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks for stopping by! We are indeed all different–thank God! This at least ensures we have a vast variety of books to enjoy! Let me know how you get on with your own list.

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