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Guardian posts writerly advice

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This week I’m pointing you in the direction of another site. Inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, the Guardian newspaper, here in the UK has published an article called Ten rules for writing fiction. In the post are writing dos and don’ts from no less than 28 other authors!

Now, this is not to take anything away from the other authors and their advice, but the original list by Elmore Leonard really is a cracker, so if you only read one, then read that one (the article opens with it). Some of the other authors gave a few quick answers, and some answers are more lighthearted. That’s not to say you shouldn’t read them, of course; I really recommend you do. And don’t forget part two, either.

I’ve read the lot and there are some really insightful comments in there, plus a few that crop up more than once. I’ve decided to pick out my favourites and create a top ten for myself. I haven’t credited each author, simply to avoid cluttering the list, and again I must stress that you should read the whole article in full.

Top ten tips and rules for writers by published authors

  1. Write. Sounds ridiculous, but it’s true; just get the hell on with it.
  2. Editing is everything. Cut, cut, cut. And if it sounds like writing, rewrite it; style is the art of getting yourself out of the way, not putting yourself in it.
  3. Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue, or are in mid-flow, even mid-sentence. That way you can jump right in the next day.
  4. Read. Widely.
  5. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue, and never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”. If the reader can’t tell how something was said, rewrite your dialogue instead.
  6. Read it aloud to yourself – especially dialogue. Rhythm is important, and if it’s difficult to read out loud, it might be difficult to read full-stop.
  7. Give it to someone else to read. These should be a trusted few, as also advised by Stephen King.
  8. Do it every day. Don’t wait for inspiration, write anyway. By the way, although this sounds like the best idea ever, I don’t do it. But at the very least you should establish a routine.
  9. Put “finished” drafts aside for a while.
  10. Be without fear. Or know that you are afraid, but barge through it to the other side.

These are my favourites, you may feel differently. Let me know your favourites from the article, plus any other tips you’ve heard authors give, in the comments below. You can also give your own tips if you like.