Shaista Justin

THE TEN RULES FOR WRITING FICTION (that other writers never told you)

In Writing With Words on March 3, 2011 at 6:33 am

  1. Start by Writing in Your Head: If the words stop you in your tracks, write them down. Repeat.
  2. Tell Everyone You Are a Physicist if asked what you do. This serves two purposes: (1) you will never be asked to justify why you are a writer (or, prove that you are one); (2) this confounds the asker and successfully causes an abrupt change in the conversation. (Trust me, they will never argue science with you; after all, how many amateur physicists lurk about at cocktail parties?)
  3. Write in the Bath — on street corners, underneath your sexual partner, above your sexual partner, on rooftops, and while flying a leer jet — every writer has a different ideal location, find yours. (And yes, I’ve been known to write in my car โ€“though not while driving).
  4. Don’t Look for Inspiration — let it find you. (This usually happens by being very, very, very interested in the world around you…in particular, by cultivating interests antithetical to wanting to be a writer).
  5. Exercise. Yeah, you couch potato of a writer. There are all kinds of emotions hidden in the fibres of your body which only emerge when you sweat…emotions make for inspiration, inspiration makes for words, words make for..etc.
  6. Stop Talking (Be Quiet)…Shut-up Already! Good writers know how to listen โ€“ this is where story ideas, character development, and the wisdom in a text come from.
  7. Engage in Risky Behaviour! (With words! With plot! With the unfamiliar! But not with unprotected sex, or drugs, or with cutting the nails of a very large cat.)
  8. Be Arrogant (and tenacious with your vision).
  9. Writing is like Weight-Loss, if you want to be thin badly enough you’ll eventually figure out how to get there. (Unless you have a really bad metabolism. Then sir, you are screwed.)
  10. Writing Implements: really? This is a question? Write with anything…a dull stick in the sand or a quill full of the blood of a snail. Don’t get fancy, just write already.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: Know when you have nothing left to say….

Ahem…here are some worthy writers who have more to say on the matter:

  1. Thank you, this is great advice writing a book is on my to do list and I will take this advice to heart.

  2. Great advice! I really struggle to write fiction…It’s about time to publish my first novel so that I can retire. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. all great advice. I particularly like #5, always works for me. Sometimes I even use the time during long distance running to help me think through ideas.

  4. @ Tracy, running is a fantastic way to get inspired. I used to run years ago and used this opportunity to become inspired. I need to get back into that soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks everyone for the comments. Wade and Tracy, I’m with you both on the connection between inspiration and exercise. Romantic and Victorian writers walked religiously…making the “Lake District” the place to be in England for inspiration. I wonder what everyday “places” inspire writers?

  5. I often write while I am trying to fall asleep – and have some great conversations with my characters at the same time. I also write while on planes and subways – you see the most interesting people and, at times, can overhear their conversations. No shame in eavesdropping is there?

    Once when on an airplane, I watched a man send and receive BB messages from his lover while sitting beside his son and wife. I’m still trying to figure out where that vignette might work into my writing.

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