A Few Effective Rules Concerning Writing Fiction

Taking into consideration the fact that we got inspired by 10 rules of Elmore Leonard, we decided to ask various authors for theirs. The rules to get an accountant, abstain from similes and sex, cut, rewrite, then cut and rewrite again, pray at last, if everything else fails, were suggested by Elmore Leonard.

In accordance with Elmore Leonard, using adverbs is believed to be a mortal sin.

  • It is rather bad to open a book with such a theme as weather. Bear in mind, if it is only for creating atmosphere, it’s OK, but if it’s a reaction of one of the characters to the weather, you’d better avoid this. There are certain readers that are eager to leaf ahead since they want to look for people. It’s no secret that there are a few exceptions. In fact, if it concerns Barry Lopez who describes ice and snow in one of his books that is called Arctic Dreams more precisely than an Eskimo would do, there wouldn’t be any reason for you not to resort to any weather reporting if you want to.
  • Another useful suggestion is avoiding prologues. It’s common knowledge that they are thought to be annoying because of the fact that they might be redundant, especially if they are on the third place after a foreword and introduction. A prologue is frequently present in non-fiction. With regard to what prologue is, it is a backstory of a novel that can be dropped in any part of your novel.
  •  It is not recommended to use any other verbs to carry a dialogue apart from “said”. Remember that the line of a dialogue should belong to the character. However, some writers stick their nose in and use such verbs as “gasped”, “lied”, “grumbled”, and “cautioned” that appear to be quite intrusive.
  • Try not to use an adverb for modifying a verb.
  • The next rule is not to let your exclamation marks get out of hand. Keep in mind that it is a norm if you use 2-3 per 100,000 words of your book.
  • There is no need to use words like “all hell broke loose” or “suddenly”.
  • Make sure that you rarely use patois and regional dialects. If you make an attempt to spell phonetically the words in a dialogue and load the page with a lot of apostrophes, there is a high possibility that you won’t be able to stop.
  • It is not suggested to describe characters in a detailed way.
  • It is not correct to devote too many pages for the description of things and places, unless you are able to paint scenes with the help of language as Margaret Atwood did. To tell you the truth, all these boring descriptions can bring the action to a standstill and there won’t be any flow of the story at all.
  • Consider which parts of the text readers usually tend to skip. Try to leave them out. In addition, try to realize what exactly you skip while reading a novel. It is irrelevant to write long paragraphs of prose that feature a big number of words in them.    

Diana Athill

  • In order to check whether the sentences have a proper rhythm, it is of a great importance to read your piece of writing aloud to yourself. Frankly speaking, this is the only way to make sure that everything is ok with the rhythm. As a matter of fact, a prose rhythm is not so easy to create. There is only one way to get it right – by ear.
  • CUT: your book shouldn’t have any irrelevant and inessential words, therefore only essential words ought to be present.

Margaret Atwood

  • Taking a pencil for writing when on an airplane is significant. In fact, pens leak. Nevertheless, if a pencil breaks, you definitely will not be able to sharpen it on the airplane, taking into consideration the fact that you cannot take a knife with you. Thus, take two pencils with you!
  • Apart from that, you can try doing a rough sharpening job with the help of a nail file that might be of the glass or metal type.
  • Why don’t you take a piece of paper to write on? However, sometimes even your arm or pieces of wood will do.
  • When you’re typing on your laptop or computer, it is highly suggested to safeguard your new text in some way. For example, a memory stick is a great option.
  • Frankly speaking, doing back exercises is inevitable. Pain is distracting.
  • You ought to constantly hold the attention of the readers. This is especially possible, if you manage to hold your own.
  • A thesaurus, a grip on reality, as well as a rudimentary grammar book, are necessary. What does a grip on reality mean? It means that there isn’t free lunch. In fact, writing is believed to be a hard work. Gambling should be mentioned here, too. Nobody is going to give you a pension plan. Yes, there will be some people that will help you a little bit, but mostly you’re on your own.
  • There is no doubt that you cannot read the book you’ve written by yourself with the real anticipation, because of the fact that you wrote that thing. That is why, ask your reading friend to look at it. Do this before you decide to publish your masterpiece. Nevertheless, this friend shouldn’t be your significant other.
  • If you’re blocked or lost in the plot, start from retracing your steps to the place where you did something wrong. Proceed with taking the other road. What is more, you can change the person, the tense, or the opening page.
  • Read something else if you cannot come up with a few dazzling ideas.

Roddy Doyle

  • Have you ever thought about placing on your desk a photo of your favorite author? You’d better not do this.
  • Don’t forget about being kind to yourself. Filling every single page as quickly as possible is highly recommended. Regard all your pages as an important small triumph.
  • As soon as you get to the 50th page, begin worrying concerning the quality of your writing. After that, try to calm down. However, feeling anxiety is the job.
  • Don’t put off giving the work a name.
  • Make sure you resort to browsing only several websites a day. Avoid going near different online bookies.
  • Keeping a thesaurus is necessary. Nevertheless, you’d rather put it behind the fridge or somewhere in the garden, so that it demands effort or travel.
  • From time to time, you may allow yourself to give in to temptation. In fact, this might be washing the kitchen floor, hanging out the washing, etc. This is also considered to be a kind of research.
  • Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Very often, good ideas can be murdered even by better ones.

Helen Dunmore

  • Do you know when you should finish the day’s writing? It ought to be done when you are still eager to continue.
  • Listen to your writing. An ineffective rhythm in one of the passages of your dialogue might show that it’s high time for you to understand your characters deeper, so that you can write in their voices.
  • The steps you are supposed to do while writing should sound like ‘rereading, rewriting, rereading, rewriting.’ If this technique doesn’t work, just throw the text away immediately. It’s a pleasant feeling, because you do not want to be cluttered under a pile of unfinished poems.
  • Learning poems by heart is a must.
  • If you see that you have a problem concerning your piece of writing that seems to be impossible to clarify, just go for a walk and it will vanish.

Geoff Dyer

  • Don’t take the commercial possibilities close to your heart.
  • Try not to write in public places.
  • If you use a laptop or a computer during your writing process, you should always expand as well as refine your autocorrect settings.
  • Keeping a journal or a diary would be an unforgettable experience for you.



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