Zadie Smith’s 10 rules for writing fiction

  1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books.  Spend more time doing this than anything else.
  2. Zadie Smith

    When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.

  3. Don’t romanticize your “vocation” . You can either write good sentences or you can’t.  There is no “writer’s lifestyle”.  All that matters is what you leave on the page.
  4. Avoid your weaknesses.  But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing.  Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
  5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
  6. Avoid cliques, gangs, groups.  The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.
  7. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.
  8. Protect the time and space in which you write.  Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
  9. Don’t confuse honors with achievement.
  10. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it.  Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

The Guardian of London, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules for writing fiction, asked 28 other fiction writers, including Zadie Smith, for their own rules.

Click on Ten rules for writing fiction and Ten rules for writing fiction (part two) for all their replies, plus Elmore Leonard’s rules.

Click on Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing fiction and Henry Miller’s 11 commandments for writers for more rules.

I spent 40 years in which I wrote nearly every working day, and got paid for it, and, in retirement, I still feel the urge to write.  Hence this blog.  But I doubt if I ever had the ability, and I am sure I never had the commitment, to be a Zadie Smith, Elmore Leonard, Kurt Vonnegut or Henry Miller.

Tags: , ,

One Response to “Zadie Smith’s 10 rules for writing fiction”

  1. Fiction Writing Advice: Good, Bad, or Stupid? « M. Giroux Stories Says:

    […] Zadie Smith’s 10 rules for writing fiction (philebersole.wordpress.com) Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: