That Guy in Your MFA’s 10 Rules for Novelists

I have placed a short story in a very prominent literary journal that may or may not exist, so I know what I’m talking about

I f you’ve ever taken a creative writing class, then you know who I am: I’m the guy who showed up 10 minutes late, with a chiseled jawline covered in half a week of stubble, unwashed hair under a beanie. When ever anyone makes a point, I roll my eyes and offer a contrarian opinion. I mean, if you read David Foster Wallace, you’d realize that the point you’re trying to make is completely obtuse. I’m working on the next Great American Novel in my Moleskine notebook, gazing contemplatively out the window every few lines so everyone looking at me knows how deep I am. That’s who I am. Jonathan Franzen is the guy who thinks winning one National Book Award a 15 years ago means he’s entitled to making rules for writers. Well, Jon, I read The Corrections. And let’s just say I would have made a few.

Course Catalog from the Jonathan Franzen Night School

I, on the other hand, have placed a short story in a very prominent literary journal that may or may not actually exist. And so, as a public service, here are my rules for writers.

1: Anyone who ever rejects your work is wrong. The same goes for anyone who gives you notes. They just don’t understand you. I mean, really: punctuation? It’s like they’ve never even read Cormac McCarthy.

2: If you write for money, you’re a capitalist sell-out hack. Real writing is done in one’s notebook and read only after one’s death, probably from starvation. Or just do what I do and live off your trust fund.

3: Writing in the first person is played out. Same with writing in the third person. If you really want to be an original voice in the foction landscape, try writing in the second person plural future tense. “The group of you all will go in the crumbling Victorian manor.”

4: If you introduce a female character, be sure to describe (in detail) the size and shape of her breasts.

If You’re Not Sure How a Male Author Would Describe You, Use Our Handy Chart

5: Real writers don’t need headboards. The mattress on your floor is a perfect conduit for creative expression.

6: You have to have darlings before you kill them. That’s a quote from Faulkner. I’ve read Faulkner

7: Female characters are hard for readers to relate to. Try making your protagonist a man.

8: Trains are a metaphor for: (1) time (2) escape (3) fascism (4) the unstoppable speed of technological advancement (5) trains

9: If The New Yorker still hasn’t responded to the unsolicited fiction submission you sent them in the mail, follow up for the eighth time.

10: Write drunk, edit never.

About the Author

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