10 Rules for Writing Fiction by Helen Dunmore

helen dunmore

Due to exceeding my silly [CRPS] limitations through the love, necessity and unquenchable want of writing, there’s a slight delay on longer offerings but not wishing to leave you short-changed, here novelist, poet, children’s book author, and essayist, Helen Dunmore, offers ten of her finest fiction writing tips.

1. Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue.

2. Listen to what you have written.

A dud rhythm in a passage of dialogue may show that you don’t yet understand the characters well enough to write in their voices.

3. Read Keats’s letters.

4. Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite.

If it still doesn’t work, throw it away. It’s a nice feeling, and you don’t want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.

5. Learn poems by heart.

6. Join professional organisations which advance the collective rights of authors.

7. A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.

8. If you fear that taking care of your children and household will damage your writing, think of JG Ballard.
9. Don’t worry about posterity – as Larkin (no sentimentalist) observed:

“What will survive of us is love.”

(originally published in The Guardian)

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