Well, hmmph.  I don’t know why the Guardian didn’t ask for MY rules.  And I did notice that, with one or two exceptions, the writers I like gave the advice I like.  And vice versa.  Unlike Philip Pullman, however, I like nothing more than a bit of journalism to while away the time when I should be writing.  So I thought I’d swallow my hurt feelings and offer my ten (or so) rules for writers — gleaned from Saturday’s article.  Sorry to be repetitive (all you fanatical Guardian readers) but really, a good number of them bear repeating, and you never know, someone might be reading from China or Beirut.

1. Do back exercises. Pain is distracting. (Margaret Atwood)

2. 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)

3.  Don’t be one of those writers who sentence themselves to a lifetime of sucking up to Nabokov.  (Geoff Dyer)

4. The way to write a book is to actually write a book.  (Anne Enright)

5. Try to think of others’ good luck as encouragement to yourself. (Richard Ford)

6.  Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting. (Jonathan Frantzen)

7.  Don’t wait for inspiration. Discipline is the key.  (Esther Freud)

8. Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell. (P.D. James)

9. Learn what criticism to accept. (Ian Rankin)

10. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet. (Zadie Smith)

11. Do feel anxiety – it’s the job. (Roddy Doyle)

OK, so it’s eleven, not ten.  But I’m the writer, and I make the rules.

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7 thoughts on “11 Rules for writers

  1. jackie 7 years ago

    I would add that using pen and paper is a great deal easier than stone tablets and also more acceptable to editors, if you can make it past the slush pile.

    1. Meg 7 years ago

      You’re talking to a woman who can barely sign a cheque without a computer keyboard handy….

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  3. Dorte H 7 years ago

    “And I did notice that, with one or two exceptions, the writers I like gave the advice I like. ” That is what I thought when I read all those rules! (I loved Margaret Atwood´s particularly).
    Well, to be honest I have never read Elmore Leonard. But based on your observation + his rules, I am not sure I will either.

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  5. Tamsin 7 years ago

    Thank you, Meg. I read this from Spain, so I think you aren’t repetitive. =)
    My english is very bad, sorry. I’m waiting for all your books in spanish.

    1. Meg 7 years ago

      Your English looks pretty good to me, Tamsin. I think at least the first two are out in Spanish…. x

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