Braak’s Rules for Writing

Posted: March 28, 2011 in Braak, Threat Quality
Tags: , , ,

Some time ago, the Guardian, in celebration of something or other, asked a bunch of writers what their ten rules for writing were.  This inspired me to write my own.

Incidentally, one of Jonathan Franzen’s rules is “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”  So, fuck you very much, Jonathan Franzen.

These rules are better than his.

1.  Commas

Put those fuckers in everywhere.  Here’s why:  one day, a copy-editor is going to read your book, and copy-editors are never happy unless they feel like they’re better than you.  Hunting down commas gives them something to do.

2.  More words

There’s a million words in the English language; you should consider your life a failure if you haven’t used every single one of them before you die.  If you can describe something with more words instead of fewer, do it.  Because fewer words is boring.  You know who used fewer words?  Hemmingway.  And what happened to him?  He died.  OF BORING.

3.  Adverbs

This comes under the aforementioned; use some fucking adverbs.  There should be at least twenty adverbs on every page.  If someone reads your book and then tells you that you shouldn’t have so many adverbs, immediately go back AND PUT IN MORE ADVERBS.

4.  The semicolon

The semicolon is fucking awesome.  Use it whenever possible.  The only reason people don’t like semicolons is because Kurt Vonnegut was talking shit on them, and what happened to him?  He also died, probably from not using enough semicolons.

Fuck Kurt Vonnegut; use semicolons.

5.  Research

Research is for people without imagination.

6.  Real things are real; so are fake things.

Every inch of every thing you’ve ever seen has been the subject of someone’s thought.  It has a name.  It is, when looked at from a particular angle, the culmination of 15 billion years of history, the center of an incalculable vastness.  The same is true for the shit you make up.

7.  Don’t be boring.

If you’re bored writing it, the rest of us will be bored reading it.

8.  Four Things

There are four ways to not be boring:  be funny, be empathetic, be smart, be pretty.  It doesn’t actually matter what you say after that.

9.  No One Cares

Seriously, who gives a shit what Jonathan Franzen thinks?  Do what you want.  This is life; if you’re not doing what you like (writing), you should give up and do something that you DO like (chef).

10.  Rules

The only actual rule is this:  no great writer became great by following someone else’s rules.  Rules are for suckers.  Invent the form.

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Comments
  1. Moff says:

    I think Hemingway actually shot himself in the head, with a shotgun. Objectively speaking, it’s not like super-original, but it was kind of not boring.

    Also, I would take out the comma after “So” in the last sentence of your second paragraph.

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    By god, I do like hunting down useless commas. It’s just so, so satisfying.

    #7 is actually on a poster in one of my office’s editing rooms. Who’s clever NOW, Braak? Mr. Poster Writer, that’s who!

    But overall, yeah – sometimes you need an adverb. Sometimes you need a semicolon. Sometimes making shit up is just fine.

    There are rules in grammar, not in writing. In writing, there are only Things You Should Maybe Consider.

    (Rule #11 – Avoid overuse of the word “maybe,” HOLLAND.)

  3. Jeff Holland says:

    Aww. Now I want to write something featuring Mr. Posterwriter.

  4. dagocutey says:

    You da’ MAN.

  5. braak says:

    @Moff: What? Next you’ll tell me that Kurt Vonnegut died for reasons unrelated to semicolons.

  6. McNees says:

    Pretty much every knows that Hemingway was smothered in his sleep by hundreds, if not thousands, of polydactyl cats.

  7. braak says:

    Their gigantic, suffocating paws are America’s silent killer.

  8. Moff says:

    Oh, Ernest Hemingway. I thought you meant Arsenio.

  9. […] by cschack There’s a million words in the English language; you should consider your life a failure if you haven’t used every single one of them before you die.  If you can describe something with more words instead of fewer, do it.  Because fewer words is boring.  You know who used fewer words?  Hemmingway.  And what happened to him?  He died. OF BORING. via threatquality.com […]

  10. dagocutey says:

    I hate Franzen’s writing. His plots are predicatble and his characters are shit. If I wanted to spend my spare time listening to conversations between creepy, shallow, selfish, clueless idiots, I’d go back to work at the university’s faculty computer lab. At least there I’d be getting paid.

  11. […] I’m just following in my tradition of telling Jonathon Franzen that his rules for writing are terrible, and that apparently getting an MFA in playwriting from Yale doesn’t mean you know anything about […]

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