Saturday, February 20, 2010

Write Club

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...

1 comment:

Jim Murdoch said...

Making up rules is fun. I wrote a post a while ago called A poem is not a puddle during which I inserted a dozen ‘rules’, not serious rules but to underline the points I was making. Here they are but you’ll need to read the article to see what I’m on about in #12.

Rule #1 – Never be without a means to record your poetry.
Rule #2 – Never keep an idea for a poem in your head longer than you absolutely have to.
Rule #3 – Form is dictated by content: do not force a poem into an unnatural shape.
Rule #4 – Good enough is good enough.
Rule #5 – Poems do not need to be biographical.
Rule #6 – Everything is fodder.
Rule #7 – Chew your food properly.
Rule #8 – Inspiration is a good idea and that's it. When you have a good idea, go for it.
Rule #9 – If you don't have a good idea then any old idea will do.
Rule #10 – A poem is a tool, not fine art.
Rule #11 – A poem is not a poem just because you say it is.
Rule #12 – A poem is not a puddle.