Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tips on Writing Fiction

Recently, while browsing for writers' markets, I came upon a two part article in The Guardian entitled "Ten Rules for Writing Fiction" See The authors/compilers asked fourteen established authors, including Canada's Margaret Atwood, to provide ten tips (commandments?) for aspiring novelists.

Among the gems were:
"Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip." (Elmore Leonard);
"Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones." (Roddy Doyle);
"Have more than one idea on the go at any time." (Geoff Dyer). Dyer also says to beware of cliches "of response as well as expression... There are cliches of observation and of thought - even of conception. Many novels... are cliches of form which conform to cliches of expectation."

(My apologies for not knowing how to put the accent on the e in cliche.)

Other bits of advice I liked:

"Marry someone you love and who thinks your being a writer is a good idea. Don't have children." (Richard Ford).

I didn't agree with "always write in the third person", but all of the advice is worth mulling over.

The only tips I might add are:

. Be selective when it comes to showing your works in progress to other people.

. Learn to work on your own. Avoid other writers and writers' organizations if you sense that they are picking your brain, sucking up your time and disparaging your work in the guise of constructive criticism.

. Learn from reading fiction that is like yours only better. Sample books on the craft of writing.

Monday, September 5, 2011

a fan letter I can't write

When I can't sleep, I often get up and read short stories by a famous Canadian author. An hour later I have put aside whatever concern had prevented sleep and go back to bed feeling that all is right with the world.

Sometimes I think I should write to the author and tell her how much her work means to me, but so far I've rejected the impulse.

"Dear Famous Author: I can't tell you how much your books mean to me. When I can't sleep I read one of your stories and soon I can't keep my eyes open and am ready for dreamland."

Now, that's hardly flattering. It's true yet it isn't. It creates the wrong impression, because the author's work is fascinating. I see myself in many of her characters and read to see how the character comes to terms with a situation/ predicament/issue, or rethinks it, endures it, lets time solve it, or triumphs over it. I'm left with the feeling that my own dilemmas are normal, typical, solvable, not always my fault, and best of all, interesting. I go back to bed feeling affirmed.