Niven’s Laws for Writers

These come from Larry Niven’s short story collection N-Space:n-space

  1. Writers who write for other writers should write letters.
  2. Never be embarrassed or ashamed about anything you choose to write. (Think of this before you send it to a market.)
  3. Stories to end all stories on a given topic, don’t.
  4. It is a sin to waste the reader’s time.
  5. If you’ve nothing to say, say it any way you like. Stylistic innovations, contorted story lines or none, exotic or genderless pronouns, internal inconsistencies, the recipe for preparing your lover as a cannibal banquet: feel free. If what you have to say is important and/or difficult to follow, use the simplest language possible. If the reader doesn’t get it then, let it not be your fault.
  6. Everybody talks first draft.

 

S M Stirling made a delightful reference to Niven’s Laws in the acknowledgement of his novel Conquistador:

And a special acknowledgment to the author of Niven’s Law: “There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is ‘idiot’.”

 

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