I picked up a copy of Rules Of Thumb – 73 authors reveal their fiction writing fixations from the bargain rack at Barnes & Noble a little while ago.
I was hoping that I’d find some long-forgotten, super-useful tips that would launch my writing from obscurity to worldwide popularity, but no such luck. It was, however, amusing at times.
The book is 73 essays from different authors about their personal “rules of thumb.”
Here’s some of my favorite advice:
- “You must eat broccoli before you begin… because it confers an almost supernatural clarity of thought and engagement with the senses. …Drusus, son of Roman emperor Tiberius, abjured all other foods and ate only broccoli for a year. His urine became bright green.” –Apparently broccoli is really good for you, and will help you write better.
- “Eschew the exclamation point! If your prose is not exciting all on its own, a screamer (as it has been called in some circles, though not mine) is hardly going to help.” –I just liked this, that’s all.
- The following story contained in the book in the essay “Susan Neville’s Secret Rule” is quite possibly the best true(?) short short story I have ever read, in a disturbing sort of way.“I was reading a volume of Pliny the Younger’s letters on a terrazza overlooking Lake Como when I found, in letter LXVII to his friend Macer, the anecdote of a woman of Como whose husband had been afflicted for some time with an ulcer ‘in those parts that modesty conceals.’ The woman finally convinced her husband to let her see the sore, after which she gave him her honest opinion that it was, in fact, incurable. She then advised him that he should put an end to his life, for what good is a man with a chancre on his masculinity? She was, however, famous for her devotion, and seeing that her husband hesitated in doing what needed to be done, she tied herself to him and plunged first into the lake, dragging him with her.”
- “Never write a fiction with a character running around in a gorilla suit, not anything with a character suffering from bulimia, anorexia, gastric reflux, diarrhea, or hemorrhoids.” –‘Nuff said.
- “Obsessed First-Person Narrators Are the Best First-Person Narrators”
- “We can’t care about sand mutants; if you do, or think you do, kill yourself.” –Reading this totally ruined the epic five book series I had planned.
There was, of course, some actual good advice too, as well as a whole lot of rambling in the book.
Ebay has some cheap copies, if you are interested. Rules Of Thumb on Ebay