Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rules for writing fiction

As written for The Guardian by Helen Dunmore, poet, novelist, and children's writer.

1 Finish the day's writing when you still want to continue.

2 Listen to what you have written. A dud rhythm in a passage of dialogue may show that you don't yet understand the characters well enough to write in their voices.

3 Read Keats's letters.

4 Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn't work, throw it away. It's a nice feeling, and you don't want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.

5 Learn poems by heart.

6 Join professional organisations which advance the collective rights of authors.

7 A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.

8 If you fear that taking care of your children and household will damage your writing, think of JG Ballard.

9 Don't worry about posterity – as Larkin (no sentimentalist) observed "What will survive of us is love".

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