Monday, August 1, 2011

Rules for writing

  1. The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.
  2. Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money.
  3. Never use the word "then" as a ­conjunction – we have "and" for this purpose. Substituting "then" is the lazy or tone-deaf writer's non-solution to the problem of too many "ands" on the page.
  4. Write in the third person unless a ­really distinctive first-person voice ­offers itself irresistibly.
  5. When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.
  6. The most purely autobiographical ­fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more auto­biographical story than "The Metamorphosis".
  7. You see more sitting still than chasing after.
  8. It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction (the TIME magazine cover story detailed how Franzen physically disables the Net portal on his writing laptop).
  9. Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.
  10. You have to love before you can be relentless.

Jonathan Franzens rules for aspirational writers, as told to the Guardian. You can find rules from other authors such as Margarets Atwood and Richard Ford here and here.


  1. Those are great advice! I loved 'Freedom'. Wonderful photo, that.

  2. Me too! I loved Freedom. The difficult part was deciding what to read next, because nothing could compare.