Writers' advice for writers


The Guardian asked several writers to list up to ten rules for writing (inspired by Elmore Leonard's little book, 10 Rules of Writing). The result (in two parts) is, by and large, excellent advice. I especially like "Do back exercises. Pain is distracting" (Margaret Atwood -- amen); "A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk" (Helen Dunmore); "Do it every day" and "Have regrets" (Geoff Dyer); "Don't wish ill on your colleagues" (Richard Ford); "The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator" (Jonathan Franzen); "Are you serious about this? Then get an accountant" (Hilary Mantel -- amen!); and best of all, "Find an author you admire (mine was Conrad) and copy their plots and characters in order to tell your own story, just as people learn to draw and paint by copying the masters" (Michael Moorcock). Also: "You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished" (Will Self).

Ten rules for writing fiction: Part one,
part two

(via Kottke)