Janet Fitch's 10 Rules for Fiction Writers

>> Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Janet Fitch, the author of White Oleander, recently shared ten writing rules with the LA Times Jacket Copy blog. I love lists like this, because it's sort of the way I approach fiction--I take whatever I've learned, and I try to think of it in checklist style. Have I leaned too heavily on adverbs? Have I remembered to weave the beginnings and ends of my chapters together? Does my story begin and end in the same place, or with the same idea?

Fitch's list is great, and includes some things I already try to work on each time. Here's a favorite:

3. Kill the cliché.
When you’re writing, anything you’ve ever heard or read before is a cliché. They can be combinations of words: Cold sweat. Fire-engine red, or phrases: on the same page, level playing field, or metaphors: big as a house. So quiet you could hear a pin drop. Sometimes things themselves are cliches: fuzzy dice, pink flamingo lawn ornaments, long blonde hair. Just keep asking yourself, “Honestly, have I ever seen this before?” Even if Shakespeare wrote it, or Virginia Woolf, it’s a cliché. You’re a writer and you have to invent it from scratch, all by yourself. That’s why writing is a lot of work, and demands unflinching honesty.


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