Here's Jonathan Franzen's Top Ten Rules For Novelists


I love Chuck Wendig on Twitter! He’s hilarious.

  1. don’t be an asshole on the page or to the people in your industry

This resonates with me.

All of these. I need them tattooed on me.

  1. characters poop plot
  2. maybe try saying something more than just what’s just on the page, like, a lot of story is unseen
  3. writing advice is bullshit; bullshit can fertilize
  4. eat bees?
  5. fuck, I dunno, nobody knows what the hell they’re doing
    10b. have you tried napping


I just snorted up half the tea I was drinking. And (once I finished cleaning up my snot tea) realized that this is TRUTH.


Honestly all 10 steps are marvellous.

Especially “eat bees”


He even mentioned some in his rules. One of the things I like about his rules is he says it’s okay to break them if you do it well. There is also humor in his rules so don’t take them too seriously.


I mean i dont see anything in these that is worth merciless mocking? But humans of the interwebs are cruel hehe


Can you please tell me what #10 means then, because I really don’t know :laughing:


It’s because he’s been so pretentious in the past, like publicly slamming Oprah’s book club when she chose to feature his book. She withdrew his book after that.

And these ‘rules’ are pretty useless.


Although this is the first time I hear about him, I agree with him about the first rule, all the others are authors’ gibberish to me. My mind likes its freedom, it can’t be muzzled by rules. For me every book, even the worst book ever written, will find its audience and a reader to like it just like the ugliest person would find someone to love them … so his rules, no. I think I’ll pass.

My mind says, “Advices yes; rules never.” :sleeping:


Wendig is the best. My god these rules are so pretentious.


Yes and yes!


It really makes me wonder what floats around in the mind of some literary writers. Its just stuffy and pretentious and kind of othering too. Imagine telling folks don’t use detailed description to identities who have never seen themselves (in a humanizing way) on the page. I am really not sure how much time this person has spent outside their walled gardens.


Also speaking of rules I remember months back reading a tweet from Ellen Oh where I don’t remember all of what she said but her point stuck with me. Basically, we fixate too much on “show” sometimes. Both “Show” and “Tell” have their place. Usually when we are told to write predominantly show its usually reflecting a world that is somewhat familiar to the western mind and it can be othering. As outside of that sphere (this is me paraphrasing sort of) you could write about ancient feudal China where you need to use tell to inform the reader as its completely unfamiliar territory.

Just yesterday I was reading a chapter from Lev Grossman’s The Magician King where one of the chapters delved into another character outside of his protagonist but he did not use show. He literally used tell for that entire chapter giving the reader a time-lapse overview of that character’s progress from the beginning of the book to now. Spanning her life in one chapter to expose the obstacle at hand now. When I read it I thought this is exactly one reason tell is useful for and shouldn’t be disregarded as sometimes people mistakenly do as in my opinion there should be a balance of both and a sprinkle of either when needed. Sometimes you don’t need the exposition show provides and just need to give an overview. Other times you need to let the reader live the experience it’s more about priority between each scene I would think.


I… think I understand what he means with #10 because I’ve had an actual full time established author from my country trying to convince me of the same once.

There’s a brand of authors who genuinely think that if you don’t engage in steamy hot romance and full-fledged, old-style love, you don’t understand life. It stems from the whole ‘write about your own experiences only’ principle, I believe?

I don’t get it either, but I’ve had that principle shoved down my throat quite often. They could mean other types of love of course, like I don’t know? But it did resonate with me on that part.

I don’t know this author, never heard of him. What does he generally write about?


Here’s some stuff on Franzen’s big novel, with an admiring blurb:

Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction
Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award
An American Library Association Notable Book

Jonathan Franzen’s third novel, The Corrections, is a great work of art and a grandly entertaining overture to our new century: a bold, comic, tragic, deeply moving family drama that stretches from the Midwest at mid-century to Wall Street and Eastern Europe in the age of greed and globalism.

I read The Corrections and hated it. Virtually all his characters are annoying, whiny, garrulous, and self-absorbed. It irked me so much that I’ve not picked up another of his works.


Thank you!

Wow, I googled him and he seems a piece of work. Interesting.


I’ve never heard of this guy before, and I don’t agree with his beliefs, but that’s his prerogative. He can write whatever he wants but that doesn’t mean I’ll take it to heart :rofl:


Haha I’ve got a lot of time for Brian, and that post was genius!


I dont even know him lol. But damn… Its funny you mention oprah? I SAW HER LIVE LAST NIGHT! She was amazing. And truly committed to authors which i love :slight_smile:


Wendig is indeed pretty great and I loved his response lol


I think we are meant to be too dumb to interpret? lol. Idk i think writing “rules” are pretentious to start with tbh