Marquesate’s favourite writing rules

Posted: April 14, 2010 in Inspiration, Publishing, Writing

Photo © DG Tate. Without permission.

The following quotes by writers about writing are all from a two-part Guardian article. I chose my favourites from the vast lot.

Neil Gaiman
The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it -honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

PD James
Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.

Hilary Mantel
Write a book you’d like to read. If you wouldn’t read it, why would anybody else? Don’t write for a perceived audience or market. It may well have vanished by the time your book’s ready.

Will Self
Stop reading fiction – it’s all lies anyway, and it doesn’t have anything to tell you that you don’t know already (assuming, that is, you’ve read a great deal of fiction in the past; if you haven’t you have no business whatsoever being a writer of fiction).

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.

Roddy Doyle
Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.

Geoff Dyer
Never worry about the commercial possibilities of a project. That stuff is for agents and editors to fret over – or not.

Anne Enright
Only bad writers think that their work is really good.

Jonathan Franzen
Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.

Esther Freud
Trust your reader. Not everything needs to be explained. If you really know something, and breathe life into it, they’ll know it too.

David Hare
Style is the art of getting yourself out of the way, not putting yourself in it.

Anne Enright
Write whatever way you like. Fiction is made of words on a page; reality is made of something else. It doesn’t matter how “real” your story is, or how “made up”: what matters is its necessity.

PD James
Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.

AL Kennedy
Defend your work. Organisations, institutions and individuals will often think they know best about your work – especially if they are paying you. When you genuinely believe their decisions would damage your work – walk away. Run away. The money doesn’t matter that much.

Michael Moorcock
Ignore all proffered rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say.

Andrew Motion
Think with your senses as well as your brain.

Joyce Carol Oates
Don’t try to anticipate an “ideal reader” – there may be one, but he/she is reading someone else.

Ian Rankin
Learn to be self-critical. Learn what criticism to accept.

Zadie Smith
Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.

Rose Tremain
Forget the boring old dictum “write about what you know”. Instead, seek out an unknown yet knowable area of experience that’s going to enhance your understanding of the world and write about that.

Jeanette Winterson
Take no notice of anyone you don’t respect.

  1. Berna says:

    Very nice, thanks Marq. Great timing for me to be reading this…..

  2. Marquesate says:

    Are you writing a story at the moment? *excited*

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