“Martin Amis’s 15 (or is it 16?) rules for writers: “You have to have a huge appetite for solitude.”

“Try not to write sentences that absolutely anyone could write.” Photo: Bryan Appleyard

Martin Amis’s 15 Rules For Writers (2014) was on Abbas Raza’s 3quarksdaily today. We found a 16th online. Here they all are:

1. Write in longhand: when you scratch out a word, it still exists there on the page. On the computer, when you delete a word it disappears forever. This is important because usually your first instinct is the right one.

2. Minimum number of words to write every day: no “quota.” Sometimes it will be no words. Sometimes it will be 1500.

3. Use any anxiety you have about your writing — or your life — as fuel. Ambition and anxiety: that’s the writer’s life.

4. Never say “sci-fi.” You’ll enrage purists. Call it SF.

5. Don’t dumb down: always write for your top five percent of readers.

6. Never pun your title, simpler is usually better: Lolita turns out to be a great title; couldn’t be simpler.

7. At Manchester (University, where he taught creative writing) my rule is I don’t look at their work. We read great books, and we talk about them … We look at Conrad, Dostoyevsky.

8. When is an idea is worth pursuing in novel-form? It’s got to give you a kind of glimmer.

9. Watch out for words that repeat too often.

10. Don’t start a paragraph with the same word as previous one. That goes doubly for sentences.

11. Stay in the tense.

12. Inspect your “hads” and see if you really need them.

13. Never use “amongst.” Never use “whilst.” Anyone who uses ‘whilst’ is subliterate.

14. Try not to write sentences that absolutely anyone could write.

15. You write the book you want to read. That’s my rule.

16. You have to have a huge appetite for solitude.


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