… aka FF’s Laws for Writing Good Fiction
So many aspiring authors now feel it’s essential to take a degree in Creative Writing and unfortunately many of them then come out mistaking flowery “innovative” prose for good storytelling. Plus they often end up with massive student debts. So out of the goodness of my heart, I’ve decided to provide an alternative… and it’s completely free, more or less!
(The laws have developed as a result of specific books which either annoyed me by breaking them, or pleased me by avoiding them, but as you will see they can be applied universally. So I’ve decided in most cases not to name the book, but for those who really, really need to know, clicking on the law title will take you to the review where I first used it.)
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So have your pencil and notebook ready – here goes…
The length of a book should be determined by the requirements of the story.
- If your book is twice as long as it needs to be, your readers will enjoy it less than half as much as they should. This is a mathematical fact!
Blurbs should accurately reflect the contents of the book to ensure they attract the right readers.
- If your blurb claims your book is a thriller, then it should thrill. If it claims to be history, then it should not be polemics. If it claims kinship with Jane Austen, then it shouldn’t read like Jilly Cooper.
To have one fart joke is unfortunate, but to have several smacks of carelessness, or a need for dietetic advice.
- If you’re young enough to think jokes about flatulence are endlessly amusing, then you’re too young to write books. Come back in ten years.
It’s not necessary for men to be made to look bad in order for women to look good.
- If you can’t find anything nice to say about men, then say nothing at all. If you object to misogyny, then you should avoid misandry.
Emotion arises from good characterisation.
- Describing the sudden deaths of thousands of fictional characters the reader has never been introduced to doesn’t have the same emotional impact as would fear for one character the reader had grown to care about.
Unnamed narrators should never be used by authors who would like people to review their books.
- Otherwise (some) reviewers might decide to name all your women Brutus and all your men Ethel, and frankly Rebecca wouldn’t be the same if the second Mrs de Winter was called Brutus. (I may be being a little selfish with this one.)
Cover artists should read the book before designing the cover.
- If the murder method was strangling, a cover with bullet holes and blood all over it seems somewhat inappropriate.
Swearing never attracts readers who wouldn’t otherwise read the book, but frequently puts off readers who otherwise would.
- Especially restrain yourself from swearing in the first line, or in the hashtag you use for advertising. What seems to you like authentic down-with-da-kids street-talk may seem to many readers like functional illiteracy.
A strong story well told doesn’t need “creative writing”, just good writing.
- Dickens never attended a Creative Writing class. Nor Jane Austen. Nor Agatha Christie. Nor PG Wodehouse.
Having the narrator constantly refer to ‘what happened that day’ without informing the reader of what actually did happen that day is far more likely to create book-hurling levels of irritation than a feeling of suspense.
- Lawsuits from people who have broken their Kindles and/or their walls can prove to be expensive.
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Once you have mastered and can apply these laws, congratulations! Send a cheque for £50,000 made out to FF’s School of
Scamming Creative Writing and you will receive by return a hand-made Diploma which you can show to agents, publishers and booksellers, or simply use as an attractive decoration for your writing nook!
You will also receive a 10% discount for the Advanced Course, currently being prepared. Here’s a taster of the goodies to come…
FF’s Eleventh Law:
WRITING BLURBS IN CAPITALS DOESN’T MAKE THEM MORE EXCITING!!!
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