“I have advice for people who want to write. I don’t care whether they’re 5 or 500. There are three things that are important: First, if you want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you. Where you just put down what you think about life, what you think about things, what you think is fair and what you think is unfair. And second, you need to read. You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. It’s the great writers who teach us how to write. The third thing is to write. Just write a little bit every day. Even if it’s for only half an hour — write, write, write.” ― Madeleine L’Engle
In 2010, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing, The Guardian asked some of the world’s most respected writers to share their best tips. Here’s how Hilary Mantel, the first British author to win the Man Booker Prize twice, responded to the task.
- Are you serious about this? Then get an accountant.
- Read Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. Then do what it says, including the tasks you think are impossible. You will particularly hate the advice to write first thing in the morning, but if you can manage it, it might well be the best thing you ever do for yourself. This book is about becoming a writer from the inside out. Many later advice manuals derive from it. You don’t really need any others, though if you want to boost your confidence, “how to” books seldom do any harm. You can kick-start a whole book with some little writing exercise.
- Write a book you’d like to read. If you wouldn’t read it, why would anybody else? Don’t write for a perceived audience or market. It may well have vanished by the time your book’s ready.
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Just over a week ago we posted Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling – a list first shared by Emma Coats, a Pixar Story Artist, on Twitter in 2012. To say the response to the post has been huge would be an understatement. We’ve received thousands of comments and shares and the interest in the list continues to grow. On Wednesday The New Yorker’s Richard Brody responded to the story with an article titled ‘The Problem with Processed Storytelling’. Brody says that Pixar films make him feel as if he ‘were watching the cinematic equivalent of irresistibly processed food, with a ramped-up and carefully calibrated dosing of the emotional versions of salt, sugar, and fat.’ What do you think of Brody’s article? Add your thoughts in the comments below.