Meg Rosoff is the prize-winning author of How I Live Now, Just In Case, What I Was, The Bride’s Farewell and There Is No Dog. Her new novel, Picture Me Gone, will be published in October.
I spent fifteen miserable years in advertising and when I finally left, had nothing to show for it except a few ads no one remembered — and a flat bought on my meagre salary in 1991.
I was fired a lot, for insubordination and general disgust with the people and the process, though mainly with myself, for not having the courage to quit and do something worthwhile.
1. Read like mad. But try to do it analytically – which can be hard, because the better and more compelling a novel is, the less conscious you will be of its devices. It’s worth trying to figure those devices out, however: they might come in useful in your own work. I find watching films also instructive. Nearly every modern Hollywood blockbuster is hopelessly long and baggy. Trying to visualise the much better films they would have been with a few radical cuts is a great exercise in the art of story-telling. Which leads me on to . . .
1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
3. Don’t romanticise your “vocation”. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page.
We have seen this advice posted in a number of places around the internet and thought it was too good not to share. It was first published in the postscript pages of the paperback edition of Padgett Powell’s The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? published in 2009.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been posting top ten lists from some of the world’s best and most famous writers. The lists were first published in The Guardian newspaper in 2010 in a series that was inspired by Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing,