Sunday, February 21, 2010

The First 12 Years are the Worst

Below is the inimitable Anne Enright on her ten rules for writing fiction, courtesy of The Guardian . She and I shared the same hotel at the Auckland Writers and Readers Week. I ran into her at the front door, and we talked a little. She's very spiky and funny on stage and her Booker book The Gathering is spiky and dark on the page. Her descriptive powers are heavenly. So here she is, predictably spiky and honest about writing ... and in the same article you'll also find  Atwood, Gaiman, Ford, Franzen and others.  

Anne Enright's Ten Rules for Writing Fiction
1 The first 12 years are the worst.
2 The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page.
3 Only bad writers think that their work is really good.
4 Description is hard. Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.
5 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.
6 Try to be accurate about stuff.
7 Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ­finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.
8 You can also do all that with whiskey.
9 Have fun.
10 Remember, if you sit at your desk for 15 or 20 years, every day, not ­counting weekends, it changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free.


Jim Murdoch said...

I like #7. If I had ten weeks to live could I finish the novel I'm working on? Yeah, but as long as I was writing something I wouldn't worry too much. There have been a few times when I've not been able to finish one particular project but worked just fine on other things.

I have always been impressed by the playwright Dennis Potter who, when he learned how long he had left to lived, not only finished one but two interlinked plays.

As for #10? Yeah, I have the neck, back and wrist pains to prove it.

Rachel Fenton said...

Ooh, hullo, Jim!

I like lists such as these - they do inspire me but they make me smile - and so does writing, on the whole!

Vanda Symon said...

I'm going to have to print those out and stick em on my wall!