“Sometimes I give myself admirable advice, but I am incapable of taking it.” - Mary Wortley Montagu
I like to read advice from others because, like Ms. Montagu, I’m not very good at listening to my own counsel. Therefore when I read about a “chorus of advice on writing from famous writers,” on the Coconut Wireless blog by Sara Williams, I had to go check out the two-part article, “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction” in Guardian.co.uk.
There’s typical advice such as, “Keep your exclamation points under control,” (Leonard Elmore). There’s also some rather unusual rules. I picked out ten of my favorites.
“Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.” (Margaret Atwood)
“You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You've been backstage. You've seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ¬romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.” (Margaret Atwood)
“You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there's no free lunch. Writing is work. It's also gambling. You don't get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ¬essentially you're on your own. ¬Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don't whine.” (Margaret Atwood)
“Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.” (Roddy Doyle)
“Do not search amazon.co.uk for the book you haven't written yet.” (Roddy Doyle)
“Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, eg "horse", "ran", "said".” (Roddy Doyle)
“Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer's a good idea.” (Richard Ford)
“Don't drink and write at the same time.” (Richard Ford)
“Stay in your mental pyjamas all day.” (Colm Tóibín)
“In the planning stage of a book, don't plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.” (Rose Tremain)
Click on Part One and Part Two for the entire Guardian article.
What is the best writing advice you’ve been given? Do you have a writing rule you'd pass on to a new writer?
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Tags: Mary Montagu, Elmore Leonard, Margaret Atwood, Rose Tremain, rules for writing, writing advice,