Six years ago, Guardian magazine asked some of the most influential contemporary authors to share their tips on writing. I found the collected wisdom precious and very helpful. Every time I feel a creative block when I’m writing, I go back and reread them.
Enjoy my own 10 tips selection!
“Don't go into great detail describing places and things, unless you're Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.
- Elmore Leonard
“Don't sit down in the middle of the woods. If you're lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.
“Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments.
“Write whatever way you like. Fiction is made of words on a page; reality is made of something else. It doesn't matter how "real" your story is, or how "made up": what matters is its necessity.
“Write in the third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.
“A story needs rhythm. Read it aloud to yourself. If it doesn't spin a bit of magic, it's missing something.
“The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
“Jokes are like hands and feet for a painter. They may not be what you want to end up doing but you have to master them in the meanwhile.
“Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.
“Remember you love writing. It wouldn't be worth it if you didn't. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back.
And no matter where you write, how you write, or what you write, just keep writing.