Saturday, February 20, 2010
There's much useful advice and entertaining reading in the Guardian's Review section today with its "ten rules for writing fiction." I wonder if they'd be a different ten for poetry? Not everyone says, "read", but enough do. There's quite a few that made me smile - particularly Margaret Attwood suggesting you take pencils on a plane - and take two so that if one breaks you'll still be able to use the other as you're not allowed to carry a pencil sharpener or knife these days. Geoff Dyer can, of course, recommend that you never worry about the commercial possibilities of a project, but then he's already got the "American publisher" to sell it for him. Anne Enright reckons, probably correctly, that "the first 12 years are the worse." Quite a few have got a bit of a downer on the internet. The horror of Zadie Smith's suggestion - to have a computer not connected to the internet! I think my brain is now hard-wired to have an internet connection nearby when I'm writing - as straightforward as having a glass of wine too hand (also frowned upon by one or two.) Interesting that Jonathan Franzen feels that copious research is devalued when everyone has access to information via the internet. He must have a better, more comprehensive internet than mine, I think, though perhaps, in an information rich world, there's a sense that the imaginative and fantastical is what fiction can uniquely bring to the table. I'd never heard of Dorothea Brande's "Becoming a Writer" recommended as the only how to guide you need by Hilary Mantel; perhaps its been embargoed by all these University creative writing departments as a literary equivalent of the infinite lightbulb that would put them out of business for under a tenner? All good fun, and worth ending with Sarah Waters point: "Talent trumps all. If you're a really great writer, none of these rules need apply." Absolutely. The rest of us need at least a few rules. As the man said, the first rule of Write Club is you do not write about Write Club...
Posted by Adrian Slatcher at 11:59 AM