17 brilliant rules on how to write from George Orwell and Henry Miller. Both repay some study: Orwell on style, Miller on getting books finished.
I wrote a blog a while back called “how to write“. It was one of my most popular blogs.
17 rules on how to write
Here are the 17 rules “how to write”, divided by the two authors.
George Orwell – style
The first list, by George Orwell, is good for style:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Henry Miller – productivity
The excellent writer Owen Matthews brought to my attention a second list, by Henry Miller. It is good for productivity, ie getting on with writing:
- Work on one thing at a time until finished.
- Start no more new books, add no more new material to ‘Black Spring’ [ie whatever you’re working on – Ed].
- Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
- Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
- When you can’t create you can work.
- Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
- Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
- Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
- Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
- Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book youare writing.
- Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
You can find a million other set of rules on the Internet, but I think these two are a fine start.