In 2010, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, The Guardian asked authors for their personal lists of dos and don’ts. We’ve gone through the whole list and, week by week, will be bringing you the timeless counsel of the great writers of the 20th and 21stcenturies.
Last time out we brought you the rules of writing from Elmore Leonard himself. And in the past we’ve also featured Zadie Smith’s exquisite balance of the practical, the philosophical, and the poetic. Then there’s Neil Gaiman’s timeless counsel on writing, which complements the writing commandments of Jonathan Franzen, as well as the wise decree of Margaret Atwood. Today, we’re pleased to feature the writing advice from renown British novelist Esther Freud. Enjoy!
- Cut out the metaphors and similes. In my first book I promised myself I wouldn’t use any and I slipped up during a sunset in chapter 11. I still blush when I come across it.
- A story needs rhythm. Read it aloud to yourself. If it doesn’t spin a bit of magic, it’s missing something.
- Editing is everything. Cut until you can cut no more. What is left often springs into life.
- Find your best time of the day for writing and write. Don’t let anything else interfere. Afterwards it won’t matter to you that the kitchen is a mess.
- Don’t wait for inspiration. Discipline is the key.
- Trust your reader. Not everything needs to be explained. If you really know something, and breathe life into it, they’ll know it too.
- Never forget, even your own rules are there to be broken.
For more excellent wisdom on writing, consider the excellent musings of ground-breaking Scottish author, Iain Maloney; and complement that with some priceless advice from Kurt Vonnegut, alongside our compendium of writing advice from some of the greatest authors.
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