20 Writing Tips From 12 Fiction Authors

Fictional Settings

Put A Sock In it! Hosiery in Fiction

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Sep 25, 2014
Ones that particularly resound with me:

"Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money." — Jonathan Franzen

"The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator." — Jonathan Franzen

Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong." — Neil Gaiman

"Read it aloud to yourself because that's the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out—they can be got right only by ear)." — Diana Athill

She's on the nail. When I read bits aloud to myself, it helps me 'see' what needs to go, that I didn't or couldn't see by looking.

More here:

So right. Neil Gaiman's quote resonates with me. It's good to tell someone that something doesn't work, but let the author figure out how to fix it. On, nearly, that same subject I think that when you read your work and deep inside you you realise something's not working, 99% of the time you should follow your instincts - there IS something wrong.
Yes, when that's happened I've sometimes put the MSS away for weeks or *cough* longer. I've clocked the criticism but don't want the solution someone has so well meaningly proposed. But I can see they have accurately identified a problem. When I have figured it out, by going into the den and sleeping on it, so to speak, the solution seems so easy and obvious; still, the solution has had to arise organically.
Congratulations Sue. on your acceptance for publication of 'Rising Tide.' What's it about?
What about a Fanfare? : )
I've been having a cosy read about cholera curled up in bed the last three nights. Fascinating story. Doctors did not belieieve in contagion, only in miasma, and people still fear, now, that they might breathe in Ebola on The Tube, but it's not flu, that's not its mode of transmission. Florence Nightingale refused to believe in contagion full stop even it had been clearly and at great length, and by a heroic determination proved as the means of transmission of cholera. None so blind as will not see.
Neil Gaiman's take on the rules of writing is maybe the best I've ever come across:


He wrote a pep talk for NaNoWriMo one year - I'll try and remember to find it. I have a hunch Jasper Fforde's one was also a good'un.
I really love these 'rules' from Neil Gaiman, especially the one Katie picked out about if someone tells you something is wrong they're always right - but they can't tell you how to fix it. That's so true. And sometimes it takes a while for you to accept that something's wrong, but then when you finally do it's like a light-bulb going on inside your head.
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Fictional Settings

Put A Sock In it! Hosiery in Fiction