humor / writers tips

Writer’s Tip #31: 10 Great Ones from Roddy Doyle

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Roddy Doyle, is an Irish novelist, dramatist and screenwriter. His 1987 novel The Commitments was made into a hit film, and won the 1993 Booker prize. His latest novel, The Dead Republic, was published in March. Here are his ten top rules of writing:

  1. Do not place a photograph of your favorite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.
  2. Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph ­–
  3. Until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it’s the job.
  4. Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.
  5. Do restrict your browsing to a few websites a day. Don’t go near the online bookies – unless it’s research.
  6. Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, i.e., “horse”, “ran”, “said”.
  7. Do, occasionally, give in to temptation. Wash the kitchen floor, hang out the washing. It’s research.
  8. Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments.
  9. Do not search for the book you haven’t written yet.
  10. Do spend a few minutes a day working on the cover biog – “He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego.” But then get back to work.

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4 thoughts on “Writer’s Tip #31: 10 Great Ones from Roddy Doyle

  1. I’m so glad you dropped by. I am a prodigious reader, which means I have piles of books to read, and didn’t want to add Roddy if he wasn’t worth it. You said two things that moves him up the pile–I love good humour and I’m quite Irish. Laughing out loud in public–Roddy sounds great.

    Let me know when you get your East African stories out. I’d love to read them. Are they fact or fiction? I have several novels with scenes in East Africa thanks to the amazing geography, geology and animal life.


  2. Hi, Kali,
    I never blog, but got side-tracked to yours while looking up the Maasai ‘ambassador’ Tepilit Ole Saitoti. I’m presently writing stories from East Africa. Anyway, that was quite a side-track (which is the main reason why I stay away from blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – I’m too easily distracted).
    So, here’s the cause of response: What?! You haden’t heard of (let alone, read) Roddy Doyle?? The commitments, The Snapper? As it happens, I just finished “The Deportees” (vintage pocket) and still hurt from laughing (and my wife’s embarrassment at my laughing out loud in the public domain of airports and beaches). Go for it! – Takes some skills and acquired taste for Irish humour and slang, though…

    You’re welcome!
    Gunnar, from Lillehammer (Norway)


  3. I hadn’t heard of him either until I ran across these. Interesting, bloke, huh? If I was going to pick one of his books, I’d probably pick the most recent and work backward. If it was a series, I’d reverse that (which it isn’t).

    Thanks for stopping by!


  4. 2 and 3 especially are important. I found I was beating myself up for not getting anywhere on bad days. Eventually I bought a wide ruled composition book just to feel accomplished no-matter what. Because of the boost in self esteem I’d end up writing far more than what I thought possible.

    I’m sadly not familiar with Roddy Doyle, which of his works would you recommend I start with (as I am now intrigued).


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