Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Rules of Writing - Kurt Vonnegut

One of my favourite pasttimes is reading interviews with writers I love, especially when they impart advice rules or advice on the process of writing. Sometimes they can say ridiculousy pretentious and fucktardly things (eg "you have to be true to the child in your soul" etc) but some of the real heavyweights have fascinating insights into their craft.

At the moment I'm trying to write, but find that I'm lacking the motivation to sit with my notebook and beat my head until something comes out. Watching youtube and reading interviews of my favourite writers is really refreshing and I find it helps get you in the right frame of mind to write


I've been a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut since reading 'Cat's Cradle' a few years ago, and he imparted eight rules for writing short fiction:
  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
So there you go, thems the rules.


  1. That is all great advice! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I think they're really good! I'll be putting up more soon :)

  3. Love this post! Those are some good rules to remember.

  4. Paying particular attention to number 5, here's a piece of short fiction I wrote entitled 'Things Both Brief and Infinite':


    I hope you enjoyed that, I think it might need some editing but generally pretty happy with it!