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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

10 Rules For Writing

My wife sent me an article about various writers' ten rules for writing fiction. It's fascinating to read how disciplined, intelligent and well-read everyone else is.

These are the ten rules I seem to live by:

1. Do anything - anything - to put off starting to write. Read about the bystander effect on Wikipedia. Play Scrabble on your iPod Touch. Just sit there and stare at a blank screen for forty minutes.

2. Leave the house. A cafe or a pub is a more productive place to write, particularly one without a wireless internet connection. Start by drinking Cokes, because 2pm is too early to be drinking alcohol. After a couple of litres, when the sugar buzz is making your eyes shake, start on the beers to calm yourself down.

3. Stay up ridiculously, self-destructively late. Several nights in a row. You'll know you've had the right amount of lack of sleep when you're barking at passers-by on the street for walking too close to you.

4. Dwell on a particular line of dialogue for at least an hour without moving on. Then realise how long you've been stuck on it, put in a placeholder, and end up cutting it later anyway.

5. Edit, edit, edit the first ten pages before you've written anything else. Editing is so much easier than writing more.

6. Bring your laptop everywhere with you in the utterly misguided hope that you'll pull it out to snatch a few minutes of writing on the train or wherever. Having to carry your microchip-brick all over town is a useful kind of penance for being a lazy writer.

7. Deadlines are essential enemies. It is perfectly natural to leave it just a little too late so you end up writing in an antisocial blood-sweating panicked frenzy. Face it, that's the only state in which you ever get any writing done anyway.

8. When you've finally finished a first draft, assume that there's nothing wrong with it, and refuse to listen to any constructive feedback for at least three weeks.

9. When a project is at last finished and out in the public domain, rest on your laurels. For goodness' sake don't do any more writing until you've milked all the mileage you can (to mix metaphors) out of what you've already written.

10. Remind yourself that you enjoy writing. It's fun.

Honestly, it's a wonder I ever get any writing done.

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