Writing tips

How to write a novel: 25 rules

How to write a novel: 25 rules

by Matt Haig

1. Never be in awe of your own style.

 

2. Writer's block = writer's indecision.

 

3. Write anything at first. Francois Sagan said 'I have to write to begin to think.' So do you.

 

4. Right now, forget about money. It eats imagination.

 

5. The first page of your first novel is the most important thing you will ever write.

 

6. Know that you won't win the Booker Prize. Fact: no-one has ever won the Booker Prize apart from Hilary Mantel, and you are not Hilary Mantel.

 

7. A first draft is the beginning of the end. But the end lasts for ever.

 

8. It isn't the words you choose to use. It's the words you choose not to use.

 

9. Adverbs dilute.

 

10. Raise your effort. Lower your expectations.

 

11. Ignore discouragement. You'll never know real negativity until you tell people you are writing a novel. The last thing a human who spends their day selling home insurance in an office that smells of egg sandwiches and despair wants to hear is that their old school-friend is going to be an international bestselling author. So ignore them. All of them. Well, except that latter-day Malcolm Bradbury, Katy Perry: 'Make 'em go, oh, oh, oh/ As you shoot across the sky.'

 

12. The 'track changes' function is the greatest miracle since the wheel.

 

13. Write as though your mother will never read it.

 

14. Forget about what you want the book to achieve. Think about what you want the words to achieve.

 

15. Be ship-shape. An ocean liner might be big, but all the screws need to be tight. Or you end up drowning. So, y'know, observe each sentence as if it was the only one.

 

16. It's OK to write about people you know if you change the names.

 

17. If you write about a dog, and the dog dies, you are in trouble.

 

18. Jeanette Winterson once told me to change the phrase 'epiphanic moment' to 'moment of epiphany'. That is the single greatest piece of advice anyone has ever given me.

 

19. Write the book you most want to read. That will be the best book you can write.

 

20. If you write in the first person people will think that the views of that person are your own views. Don't let that stop you writing Hitler's fictional autobiography. I just thought you should know.

 

21. Read Graham Greene. He infects you with greatness.

 

22. The hardest bit of writing always comes at the 30,000 word mark. Keep going. After 50,000 the hill slopes in your favour.

 

23. Read it aloud. You'll notice more mistakes that way.

 

24. Love is the most important ingredient. Love of words. Of your characters and their flaws. Of truth. You are playing God, but it has to be a loving God.

 

25. Enjoy it. There is nothing as exciting in this world as roaming the beautiful wilds of the human imagination. There really isn't.

Comments

Thanks!

Anon
22 August 2014

I need writing rules!

Katherine
8 August 2014

sir,
today i'm much confused deciding how to start my novel. i have two ways-
1) i can predict the whole story normally
2) i write it as my diary notes and predict the whole story in a way just as two friends are chatting.
please solve my problem. i had this problem because i liked the way #2 but i also agree with rule #5.

Kautilya Bhardwaj
14 July 2014

Wow! Brilliant. Thanks a lot ^_^

Petal Hoang
29 June 2014

Thanks A tonnnnn.................

CA Ankush
27 June 2014

haha! this one's so helpful. thank you!

I am Ei
27 June 2014

I'm starting today and this has saved me - and made me laugh!

DonB
25 June 2014

thanks alot and i really found worth in it!!!

dezang
14 June 2014

Number 10 is much meaningful for a MAN in a Race or Battle.

Masereka David
13 June 2014

Very helpful. Thanks

Sipho
24 May 2014

Oh 25, I m willing to live & die there
Thank you

Jen...
23 May 2014

that ws really helpful!! thanx a lot :)

niki
16 May 2014

Great advice- love # 17

John Heselton
1 May 2014

i am energized to resume the chapter i left midway. Thanks a ton!

jahaan
21 April 2014

Oh. My. GOD. Number #22 is actually TRUE! I never would've thought that, but it's just happened to me and it's really true! Of course, so are lots of the other ones, but this one has just blown my mind at this particular point in time.

Saving this list somewhere I can easily read it whenever I need to. Thanks muchly, sir!

Wendy Christopher
18 April 2014

Thanks now I can start a book

Yolo
13 April 2014

Thanks for the tips.

Empress vy
7 April 2014

thank u so much...nw its time to write a better chapter. get set go...

apoorva u
24 March 2014

Very useful and helpful; Imagination is very important.

Anita Kalukango
22 March 2014

Bookmarked and has been referred to everyday for the past week while writing!

Russell S
19 March 2014

cool! these will help me with my writing

Catherine
14 March 2014

thank you for the advice, I will put all listed in mind. I also hope all others writing their first book has great success. :)

Liam
14 March 2014

This really helped a lot. Thanks again

Katherine

Katherine
13 March 2014

Bookmarked! Thank you for this!

Marmel
2 March 2014

very useful tips,

ehsaan
28 February 2014

you helped me so much

thank you

leah
19 February 2014

My favourite is number 24. If you have a love of your character then that will make them human even if they have flaws.

I think you're missing something around grit and persistence though. It takes a lot of effort to sit down and continue to write even when you think your muse has deserted you, or if you're infatuated with a new idea.

Brendan
13 February 2014

This is really helpful. I really like 24 and 25.
Thanks!

hermione
13 February 2014

I was just leaving for my second session at a writer's forum when I read your tips. Not sure if I can write but have been driven to try. Thank you all your tips are really helpful for me.

April Llewellyn
9 February 2014

you said if you have a dog in the book and the dog dies your in trouble may you please explain then why of mice and men is still being used an educational tool when that has a dieng dog that is killed in it

Alexander James Roberts
5 February 2014

It is really, really very helpful. Thanks for the post.

Mohnish Singh
3 February 2014

Thanks for the tips amazing

Neve
1 February 2014

Thank you very much. I liked especially number 17

Peter A
1 February 2014

thank you for these great tips.

priyabrata Mahakur
1 February 2014

You have no idea how much this has helped my writing. I never comment on these things, but I felt this was necessary. Thank you.

Nikki
13 January 2014

Really helpfull tips ! Thanks alot.
P.s : I loved number 20 haha

Rey
9 January 2014

Thanks so much. You surged my imagination and energy!

Susan Summer
6 January 2014

These are great tips! Loved No.19 especially.

I encourage everyone to write out the ones you find most important (as I did)- you never know when you might need them!

Jake
1 January 2014

Thanks a lot Matt:)

Nikita
17 December 2013

Greatest advice I ever read - no 13! This was one of my major problems ,believe it? "What will mamma say?!"
And the idea of playing God - oh my! Genius!
Thank you for this list! Is perfect.

Mary
8 December 2013

I am writing number 24. Hope all of you will like it. But fear always lurks around me.

Debasish Satpathy
13 November 2013

thanks but no thanks. too ccomplicated. i'd rather visit someplace else

harrypotterfan
8 November 2013

Thanks for the tips! I am about to start writing my first novel. Just getting all my ideas together now before I begin to write.

Siobhan C
7 November 2013

I love number 13! However, all of the tips are brilliant. Thank you.

Nadine Hirst
30 October 2013

Nice ones here, I won't make mistakes again, though is my first novel and am only 17,I wander how am gonna do it but I can, I know that.

Mikeherbs
19 September 2013

Thanks for this Matt; You'll be the first to know when it's published!

Lawrence Cohen
11 September 2013

17. If you write about a dog, and the dog dies, you are in trouble... hmmn. Starting a book in august about a dog (a basenji)... trying to decide if it should die (or one of his folks). Now, I'ld keep this in mind. You just saved a life. The dog lives!

Miss August
29 July 2013

wise tips and as I start my journey I will use them wisely, thank you

Helen
23 July 2013

LOL! I like tip 13 & 17!
I will use these tips!
Thanks!

AlexSushiDog
4 July 2013

Number 19: "Write the book you most want to read. That will be the best book you can write."

- Brilliant, thank you!

May
16 June 2013

Listening makes an attentive man, reading makes a cognitive man but writing makes an atticulate man." to be or not to be", this is an indispensible guide to great writers. thanks Joan.

IBE OBUMNEKE GEOFFREY
4 June 2013

Just starting my 7th suspense novel and I needed those reminded now just as much as when I wrote my first book, many years ago. Maybe more. Thank you.

www.joanhallhovey.com

Joan Hall Hovey
24 May 2013

Just,Thank you.

Ken DeRoiste
21 May 2013

I see my dreams coming true.tnks for the lecture,oneday u will here my name on the climax of this world never fight me..

chris c Nwakanma
17 May 2013

I needed that to get me going again!

Leah
24 March 2013

Brilliant list to work with.

Maureen W
13 March 2013

thank you. You have given me a road map to an author's shang ri la.

Johan Olivier
1 March 2013

I found that after 30,000 wasn't bad. It was after about 70,000. Ending is a bitch.

Jason
21 February 2013

I've just hit 30,000 words so I know 22 is true!

IanB
20 February 2013

Great advice. One of the rare set of rules, all 25 of them, that I agree with

Namita W
18 February 2013

novelists are really minor poets!

Almoors
18 February 2013

Just great points, really great, and humour helps, a lot, I think.

Brilliant!

Alan

Alan Summers
9 February 2013

These rules are wise and witty.

P
7 February 2013

I liked them all. Good advice. Particularly liked 9.11. 13 and 19

Sandra Walls
6 February 2013

Love this list. Excellent advice. My favourite one is number 25.

Anne Stormont
6 February 2013

Good stuff. Thank you.

Steve
6 February 2013

Hat's off to anyone with the audacity and courage to see it through. I'll stick to shopping and holiday packing lists.

Peter Kenny
6 February 2013

Brilliant and so funny. Thank you.

Marika Cobbold
6 February 2013

If you're going to take just one from the 25 above then it's got to be number 8.

Sam K
6 February 2013

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