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10 Rules for Novelists byJonathan Franzen


Jonathan Earl Franzen is an American novelist and essayist. His 2001 novel The Corrections, a sprawling, satirical family drama, drew widespread critical acclaim, earned Franzen a National Book Award, was a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist, earned a James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award. 

Below are his ten rules for novelists:

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.


Source: From The End of the End of the Earth: Essays. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright 2018 by Jonathan Franzen.