Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Authors' rules of writing

The Guardian recently asked a bunch of well-known writers for their own personal top ten rules of writing. The results, which you can read here, were fascinating.

Needless to say every writer had a different set of rules and not a few contradicted each other. Some I found myself nodding over, some were completely new to me, some were hilarious and others I didn't agree with at all.

Margaret Atwood's suggestions for writing on a plane journey had me in stitches. Robert Ford was so brusque it was unhelpful. One author banned the use of prologues and another said all similes and metaphors were taboo. These two worried me. Yes, I've come across books where the prologue got in the way of the story and yes, I've read writing that's so full of imagery it's positively puce. But to ban every instance of something risks losing our wonderfully rich language and variety of writing forms.

And the top of the top ten advice? Well, lots of it was good but I think this, from Elmore Leonard, was pure gold: 'If it sounds like writing, rewrite it'.


Bill Kirton said...

I've always been a huge fan of the Elmore Leonard rules and I agree about 'If it sounds like writing, rewrite it'. So many people are put off expressing themselves because they think they need to 'write posh'. And others indulge their egos unforgivably to write elaborate, convoluted stuff that's unreadable.

fiona glass said...

Yup. I don't mind writing that uses language imaginatively but it should still be possible to make it sound natural...