The Guardian’s Ten Rules For Writing Fiction

March 30, 2014 by 1 Comment

The Guardian's Ten Rules For Writing Fiction

Back in 2010 The Guardian posted a series of articles called Ten Rules For Writing Fiction. Inspired by Elmore Leonard’s book 10 Rules of Writing, which we’ll post below, The Guardian asked other famous authors what their ten rules were. As you’ll see when click on the two articles not all of them have ten rules and some of the rules are far from helpful – even if they are meant in a nice way.

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

The Guardian's Ten Rules For Writing FictionLet’s start with Elmore Leonard‘s rules. These are the shorten version but you can read the full explanation behind each here:

  1. Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long.
  2. Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin.
  5. Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”.
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered.
  9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’re ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language.
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Ian Rankin and Hilary Mantel also give their expert advice along side another 25 writers. The advice is split across two articles which can be found below:

The Guardian’s Ten Rules For Writing Fiction Part One

The Guardian’s Ten Rules For Writing Fiction Part Two

Let us know what your favourite writing rule is below!

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