Thursday, 22 August 2013

Not those b****y rules again!

In honour and memory of Elmore Lenard, who died a couple of days ago, I am re-printing two posts from 2010:


Photo credit:MDCarchives


Well it was bound to provoke, wasn't it? Last Saturday's Guardian newspaper printed Elmore Leonard's already well known 10 rules and asked many other writers to provide their own, here:

I've come across the Leonard rules before so don't understand how come they are just being released as a book here. And I can't honestly be bothered to find out why. I hate writing rules!

If they worked, then everyone who followed them would produce similarly successful books, wouldn't they?

Here are a few taken at random:

Margeret Atwood - take 2 pencils so you can write on a plane because "pens leak" - honestly, I ask you! Did she get to be the great writer she is by eschewing biros? I don't think so.

Roddy Doyle - do not search for the book you haven't written yet. Is the man mad?

Richard Ford - don't have children. Back to the old Enemies of Promise premise, I see. How many male writers look after their own children?

P. D. James Increase your word power. This from a woman who misuses "fortuitous" in almost every novel.

Dip in almost anywhere and you will find such dross - this really is just filling column inches.

Tips, I can take. I've written some myself on because so many teenage writers asked for them and it saves repeating myself (I think I have 10 rules for writing fantasy there but done tongue in cheek - do not let your plot hinge on a birthmark, for example)

Hints are good. I love hearing about the way writers work. I loved it when the Guardian ran those pictures and descriptions of writers' rooms.

Advice? Good when asked for and given by someone one respects.

But rules? Nah. Rules schmules.

10 things that help me write

I've gone on thinking about those rules and think they would have been more useful if expressed as above. Here are mine:

1. Someone to read fiction aloud to, chapter by chapter, as I write it. In my case it's my husband, so he is very close at hand but any trusted friend would do.

2. Proximity to a kettle. My study is next to the kitchen, so it's very easy to make a mug of real black coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon (creature of habit)

3. An object that symbolises what I am writing about. It's not a fetish but a focus. Currently I'm writing a novel about Michelangelo's David and I don't have such an object. Must find one.

4. A supply of clicky-clicky biros that write black. Blue really disturbs me.I like Papermate flexigrip which I buy in sixes (though then they all run out at the same time)

5. A fast Internet connection.

6. A writers' group. I belong to "the other SAS" = Scattered Authors Society. We have a closed forum on which to let off steam, pass on news, give and receive sympathy for personal sadness, ask for and receive advice on many arcane topics. We also meet at least twice a year, some of us, and also have little local lunches from time to time. We never discuss ideas or "inspiration", hardly ever even technical writing matters but it's terrific just to know a group of people who don't have to have this insane way of life explained to them.

7. A subscription to the London Library.

8. Some close writer friends, a smaller group than the SAS, with whom I can talk career strategies, marketing etc. You know who you are.

9. A good night's sleep.

10. a regular supply of fiction both YA and adult, to read. I'm not at all afraid of "being influenced" as some tyro writers say. If you don't read you can't write. Oooh, I think no. 10 is actually a rule!


Sue Bursztynski said...

Another thing that must help you, from the sound of it, is not having to have a full time day job. ;-) Then you can make best use of that kitchen next door to the study.

Unknown said...

Dear Book Maven,
I haven't followed any of those damn rules, yet I manage to keep on keeping on. My husband, bless his soul, seems to fall asleep whenever I read to him so lately, I've just been handing him a chunk of pages and begging him to tell me if he's confused. It's all rather funny as I try not to read over his shoulder. ...the way things are looking, my next novel, a lush epic about two girls born with wings, should be out in 2014. Yay!

Stroppy Author said...

Sue, writing *is* Mary's full time day job. You might as well say a surgeon is lucky he has time for all that surgery, rather than having a full-time day job. Yes, full-time writers stop for tea and coffe. So do full-time other workers. It's allowed!