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Let your subject find you, and other rules for writers

Everybody has seen those lists of rules that writers sometimes come up with for advising others on how to perform the literary art and craft. Mark Twain famously embedded some real writing advice in his mostly snarky/facetious identification of “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.” George Orwell’s offered five rules for writers in “Politics and the English Language.” Elmore Leonard gave us his soon-to-be-famed “10 Rules of Writing” in a 2001 essay written for The New York Times, and then, a few years later, expanded them into a short book titled, appropriately enough, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.

Now novelist Colson Whitehead — mentioned here not long ago because of his New Yorker essay “A Psychotronic Childhood,” which you should go and read immediately after you finish this blog post — has given us his own set of rules, clocking in at the odd number of 11. We bring them to your attention because we think they are, to put it in technical terms, Fairly Awesome.

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