You’ve read VS Naipaul’s advice to beginning writers. Now here’s Kurt Vonnegut:
Eight rules for writing fiction—Kurt Vonnegut
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
These tips are from Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction—and I first came across them here, courtesy email from Gauravonomics.
I especially loved the bit about the story getting pneumonia. All stories should get pneumonia and die, and then we writers should have to start all over again. Um, where to begin?