10 Things I Hate About You

In response to http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one , I thought I’d throw down my own Commandments. If only for my own purposes. And because that’s how memes roll.

1) A writer must have authority. If you are not comfortable writing “This happened,” then it won’t.

2) Perfect prose is that which cannot be questioned. All choices can be questioned. Great choices are those which have many possible answers; great writing is that which, somehow, found the answer that is best. Those who abstain from choice – to please their audience, or (most often) their workshop – can easily create prose that is as perfect as a flawless diamond. Yet like a flawless diamond it will be simple, minuscule, interchangeable… and absolutely fucking boring.

3) “Write about what you know” is not a limitation. It is an invitation to get out there and see and feel and learn and love and do.

4) Every writer works differently. An author who thinks that their method is the One True Method is a fool. An author who tries to force themselves into the method of another is not only a fool, but one whose writing is necessarily handicapped. (One can be a fool if one writes very well. Otherwise it is harder to defend.)

5) Attempts to convey the speed or inflection of dialogue through extraverbal cues – exclamation points and adverbs, particularly – demonstrate that the author is more firmly rooted in television than they are in books. If you visualize your novel as a movie that you are just recording… then you should go get a camcorder, and leave the pen alone.

6) Before you start writing, make sure that you are committed to finishing the project. Stockpile enough Anti-Angst that it will last you until “The End” – at least.

7) Every project you start should be one that you want to Write, to Be Writing, and to Have Written. You must be excited about it; you must look forward to spending weeks or months or years in its close company; you must be able to look people in the eye and say with happy pride that it is yours. If any of these three tenses is not satisfied – keep looking.

8) If you think a story’s really good, put it away for a while until you can look at it and dislike it. Then, and only then, are you ready to start editing.

9) If you find yourself disenthused about a story you’re working on, it it invariably because you don’t really know what happens next. So go take a walk or a drink or a fuck and then come back and figure it out. If you can’t, start deleting things until you get back to a place from which you can proceed.

10) There’s no right way to write. There’s no wrong way either. Which is these is more of a bitch depends entirely on the weather.

As to luck, there is the old miners’ proverb: “Gold is where you find it.”



~ by davekov on 11 May 2011.

One Response to “10 Things I Hate About You”

  1. NB

    11. If you’re not worried about your work making you sound like an asshole, you’re not thinking hard enough; if you’re not constantly going back and rereading your work so as to make sure it is free of assholatry, you’re not worrying hard enough.


    12. Who the hell knows. Just try to fucking write something.

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