Monday, April 5, 2010


So the Guardian published a, now very well known, "Ten Rules for Writing" article this year. They actually published it right on my birthday and distracted me for most of the day which was no bad thing as I have a tendency to panic and dwell on birthdays. The night before my 30th birthday I decided I had to read everything I had ever wanted to read and enjoy my dwindling twenties as much as possible. I read. I walked. I stayed up all night. And then I fell asleep in a corner of the living room at 930 pm at my own birthday party the next day. Brilliant.

These rules for writers have played in the corners of my imagination sandbox for the last couple of months. They are brilliant rules from brilliant authors: Elmore Leonard, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Zadie Smith, Esther Freud, David Hare and other giants. And the rules are all terrific.

Some are simple: Ian Rankin, "Write lots." Ok. Some are more complicated: Rose Tremain, "In the planning stage of a book, don't plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it."

Umm. What about historical fiction where the ending is more fact than fiction? Or is the creative element in the fiction the when to stop of it all? How to truly earn a creative arc when it is already dictated to a degree? But then, Rose Tremain often writes historical fiction. Later she says, "If you're writing historical fiction, don't have well-known real characters as your main protagonists." That ship certainly sailed.

I would write, catch myself committing some terrible transgression, cleanly breaking of one of these rules--there are lots of them--and then stop writing. But in the stopping writing I was breaking another golden edict. And then I decided to just put them out of my mind and not think about them. Wow. That doesn't work.

It was only this weekend, when I was helping my wonderful student finish his Senior Project (about the process of writing and reading of course) that I got it. I have rules of my own that I instinctively keep. All these other rules are fantastic and some are fantasticker than others and so have been adopted into my mental lexicon of writing commandments but some are just fantastic in a stop, smell the flower and keep walking kind of way.

And then of course I found a fascinating interview with one of my favorite author's, Sandra Gulland that I am about to listen to and I am sure will undo all these helpful mental acrobatics. Um, Zadie Smith, "Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet." Must remember to keep that rule.

The Guardian:

Sandra Gulland:


  1. fantastic, priya. i love reading about other writers' processes. any other links or books you recommend i am all ears! i have similar panics during birthdays. for some reason 36 was terrible!

  2. definitely read this article (and part ii) but agree with yourself to take only what you need from it! absorb it all and you end up a contradictory mess! x

  3. Hello. I found you at the hop, (your blog title really stood out) and had to visit. An interesting blog, I really like that it contains so many subjects. Nice to have met you, best wishes.


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