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Repost: Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules of Writing

This week, we bring you “101 Books’ Greatest Hits.” Today’s post was freshly pressed at WordPress on March 15, 2011 and has, by far, more page views and comments than any other post on this blog. Many of you might have found this blog because of this post. Here’s the original post. 101 Books will return live on Monday, July 11. 

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Last week, I posted about George Orwell’s rules for writing, so while I’m finishing book #12: The Corrections I thought this would be a great opportunity to check out what Jonathan Franzen has to say on the subject.

This list came from The Guardian:

  1. The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.
  2. Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.
  3. Never use the word “then” as a conjunction– we have “and” for this purpose. Substituting “then” is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many “ands” on the page.
  4. Write in the third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.
  5. When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.
  6. The most purely autobiographical fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more auto biographical story than “The Metamorphosis”.
  7. You see more sitting still than chasing after.
  8. It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.
  9. Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.
  10. You have to love before you can be relentless.

I love #2. I don’t even write fiction, but somehow that resonates with me. How much of fiction comes from that dark place within the author’s soul? How much of fiction is really semi-autobiographical?

I really enjoy seeing how influential writers view their craft, and Franzen is one of the better novelists out there today, or so the critics say. His newest novel, Freedom, looks to be a brilliant story as well. Maybe I’ll read it one day, like, after the next 87 books.

But, for now, back to The Corrections. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on Franzen’s rules.

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