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Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules for Novelists Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by [deleted]

Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules for Novelists

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


Jonathan Franzen is the author of Purity and four other novels, most recently The Correc­tions and Freedom, and five works of nonfiction and transl­ation, including Farther Away and The Kraus Project, all published by FSG. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the German Akademie der Künste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His latest book, The End of the End of the Earth, is available from FSG.


1. The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.

2. Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the fright­ening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.

3. Never use the word then as a conjun­cti­on—we have and for this purpose. Substi­tuting then is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-so­lution to the problem of too many ands on the page.

4. Write in third person unless a really distin­ctive first-­person voice offers itself irresi­stibly.

5. When inform­ation becomes free and univer­sally access­ible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.

6. The most purely autobi­ogr­aphical fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more autobi­ogr­aphical story than The Metamo­rph­osis.

7. You see more sitting still than chasing after.

8. It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.

9. Intere­sting verbs are seldom very intere­sting.

10. You have to love before you can be relent­less.

Jonathan Franzen