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V.S. Naipaul’s 7 Rules For Beginning Writers

Make no mistake—no matter what you think about V.S. Naipaul as a person, the man is an incredible writer.

With that, his advice on writing goes a long way. Here are his 7 tips for beginning writers (via Boing Boing), but I believe these rules are applicable for writers of any experience level.

  1. Do not write long sentences. A sentence should not have more than ten or twelve words.
  2. Each sentence should make a clear statement. It should add to the statement that went before. A good paragraph is a series of clear, linked statements.
  3. Do not use big words. If your computer tells you that your average word is more than five letters long, there is something wrong. The use of small words compels you to think about what you are writing. Even difficult ideas can be broken down into small words.
  4. Never use words whose meaning you are not sure of. If you break this rule you should look for other work.
  5. The beginner should avoid using adjectives, except those of colour, size and number. Use as few adverbs as possible.
  6. Avoid the abstract. Always go for the concrete.
  7. Every day, for six months at least, practice writing in this way. Small words; short, clear, concrete sentences. It may be awkward, but it’s training you in the use of language. It may even be getting rid of the bad language habits you picked up at the university. You may go beyond these rules after you have thoroughly understood and mastered them.

Those 7 tips could’ve come straight from Hemingway. It seems Naipaul has a very similar approach to his writing as Papa Hemingway.

Point 5, in regards to adverbs, is reminscient of a Stephen King quote from On Writing: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

Great advice.

If you’re interested in writing tips from other famous authors, I’ve got you covered. Check out:

Ann Patchett’s 7 Writing Tips

John Steinbeck’s 6 Writing Tips

5 Writing Tips From C.S. Lewis

Margaret Atwood’s 10 Rules of Writing

Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules of Writing

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16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on Victoria English Bookworld.

    Like

    January 27, 2015
  2. Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    V.S. Naipaul’s 7 Rules for Beginning Writers…and much more courtesy Robert Bruce’s interesting blog…

    Like

    January 27, 2015
  3. Laura #

    thanks for sharing this!

    Like

    January 27, 2015
  4. The greats provided the blueprint for successful writing.

    Like

    January 27, 2015
  5. Thanks for sharing. I will use these tips in my own writing.

    Like

    January 27, 2015
  6. stephenmcdaniel77 #

    I think Naipaul’s rules are probably more applicable to more writing than most of the other sets of ‘rules’ from various authors. As an exercise, read some straightforward best-seller fiction in a non-literary genre, and you frequently find when you analyse the writing that the author has done exactly what Naipaul recommends. But writing a simple declarative interesting sentence turns out to much more difficult than it seems.

    Like

    January 27, 2015
  7. These are a good set and ones I haven’t seen. Synchronistically, I just posted Steinbeck’s rules yesterday.

    Like

    January 27, 2015
  8. Interesting, but I don’t necessarily agree with them! Enjoyable post though!

    Like

    January 27, 2015
  9. “If your computer tells you that your average word is more than five letters long, there is something wrong.”

    That sentence has nineteen words in it. What’s wrong here?

    Like

    January 27, 2015
  10. Reblogged this on hear me out and commented:
    Note to self…

    Like

    January 27, 2015
  11. Two thoughts on ‘Rules’ spring to mind (out of 19 listed) from the just-published book of phrases, “Would You Mind Repeating That?”: “Rules are made to be broken.” ♦ “There are two rules in life: 1). There are no rules. 2). See rule #1.” ♦ http://www.amazon.com/Would-You-Mind-Repeating-That/dp/0989812405

    Like

    January 28, 2015
  12. Reblogged this on Writing a Paige and commented:
    I never really thought about this, I do tend to use a lot of long words when writing too. I should probably follow this more. I think what it is, big words seem more appealing to me. Small words seem too simple and unprofessional. The question I ask myself, in all these books that I read-is it only big words? No.

    Like

    January 28, 2015
  13. I agree to that: he is a very talented writer:-)

    Like

    January 29, 2015
  14. Good Stuff. I checked the others in your series and now feel quite happy

    Like

    February 7, 2015
  15. Jasmine D. #

    Reblogged this on zhazzxiii.

    Like

    February 20, 2015

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