Jonathan Franzen: 10 Rules for novelists and mocking

Writer Franzen recently re-published his 10 rules for novelists and has received quite some mocking by some other writers.

These rules first appeared in 2010 in a Guardian series (with a Zadie Smith set of tips amongst others).

Here are his rules and then Chuck Wendig’s rost. (Wendig himself has written 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction. )

1. The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.

2. Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.

3. Never use the word then as a conjunction—we have and for this purpose. Substituting then is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many ands on the page.

4. Write in third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.

5. When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.

6. The most purely autobiographical fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more autobiographical story than The Metamorphosis.

7. You see more sitting still than chasing after.

8. It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.

9. Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.

10.You have to love before you can be relentless.

And Wendig’s response (Wendig also takes apart each line):


Ah well how easy to be mocked.

Link to Zadie’s tips here

Franzen’s new book of essays is here (amazon link) I believe he writes on the loss of wildlife and birds, amongst other occupations.