Sunday, February 28, 2010

How About Those Writing Rules?

Any writer who’s ever subscribed to Writer’s Digest or read a how-two book on writing knows that our profession, like most professions, is inundated with rules. But unlike other professions, breaking writing rules usually won’t result in a court appearance or the loss of life, which might be why so many of us happily break them. Or maybe it’s because some of the rules don’t really make sense to the type of piece we’re working on. Or maybe it’s simply that rules are made to be broken. Here’s just a small number of them from different authors. Which of them works for you?

From Elmore Leonard:
. never open a book with the weather
. avoid prologues, they’re annoying
. try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip
. avoid detailed descriptions of people, places, or things

From Roddy Doyle:
. do not place a photo of your favourite author on your desk, especially if he’s committed suicide
. write as fast as you can until page 50, then calm down and start worrying about the quality
. do not search for the book you haven’t written yet

From Helen Dunmore:
. finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue
. a problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself when you go for a long walk

I can vouch for that one. It really does work. There are many more, fun, quirky, and useful tips in a Guardian article at Have a look and enjoy!


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