Writers Write creates and shares writing resources. In this post, we share Rose Tremain’s 10 rules for writers.
Rose Tremain (born 2 August 1943) is an award-winning English author, and former Chancellor of the University of East Anglia.
Her publications include novels and short-story collections, and she is also the author of a number of radio and television plays. She won The Orange Prize for The Road Home.
Rose Tremain was chosen as one of the 20 ‘Best of Young British Novelists’ by Granta in 1983, and was a judge for the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1988 and in 2000. She reviews and broadcasts regularly for press and radio.
Her most recent novels include Trespass, Merival: A Man of His Time, and The Gustav Sonata. Her books are often said to ‘dramatise a moment of truth in the lives of lonely outsiders’.
She was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2007.
Rose Tremain’s 10 Rules for Writers
- Forget the boring old dictum “write about what you know”. Instead, seek out an unknown yet knowable area of experience that’s going to enhance your understanding of the world and write about that.
- Nevertheless, remember that in the particularity of your own life lies the seedcorn that will feed your imaginative work. So don’t throw it all away on autobiography. (There are quite enough writers’ memoirs out there already.)
- Never be satisfied with a first draft. In fact, never be satisfied with your own stuff at all, until you’re certain it’s as good as your finite powers can enable it to be.
- Listen to the criticisms and preferences of your trusted “first readers”.
- When an idea comes, spend silent time with it. Remember Keats’s idea of Negative Capability and Kipling’s advice to “drift, wait and obey”. Along with your gathering of hard data, allow yourself also to dream your idea into being.
- In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.
- Respect the way characters may change once they’ve got 50 pages of life in them. Revisit your plan at this stage and see whether certain things have to be altered to take account of these changes.
- If you’re writing historical fiction, don’t have well-known real characters as your main protagonists. This will only create biographical unease in the readers and send them back to the history books. If you must write about real people, then do something post-modern and playful with them.
- Learn from cinema. Be economic with descriptions. Sort out the telling detail from the lifeless one. Write dialogue that people would actually speak.
- Never begin the book when you feel you want to begin it, but hold off a while longer.
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