As you would expect from someone who has been a successful and established literary author for some time, Franzen has a particular set of opinions which seem to be both largely divorced from the reality of experience for many people attempting to write novels, and also particular to his own experience and privilege. Where they aren't tin-eared to reality, his rules are nebulous and vague (what could "you have to love before you can be relentless" possibly actually mean, and who could this ever help?).
Author Twitter, of course, has had a field day making fun of Franzen's "rules", with many different writers offering their own takes on advice they would recommend fellow authors follow. Some is comedic, some genuinely attempting to be helpful, while others mix the two.
Although I doubt anyone needs it, here is my own list of ten rules I would suggest aspiring writers follow (tongue firmly in cheek, of course):
- Don’t care about word count (unless you’re being paid by the word in which case, use as many as possible, even if it doesn’t make sense purple monkey dishwasher)
- Don’t care about other people’s word count (even if it’s NaNoWriMo – it literally doesn’t matter)
- If you aren’t enjoying it, stop and don’t go back until you enjoy it again. This might take a while but what is the point of writing if you hate it? It’s hard enough to make a living doing it if you like it!
- Don’t be afraid to edit as you go, your first draft doesn’t have to be a stream-of-consciousness
- Don’t worry if your first draft needs masses of work, that’s what editing is for
- Write in the environment that works best for you, whether that’s naked in the dark in isolation or plugging away at a laptop in a busy coffee shop
- Don’t write naked in a busy coffee shop, though
- Do as much research as your work demands, whether at the library, via the internet, or by talking to people who can add something to your narrative
- If you haven’t researched, keep things big and vague and you will probably get away with it unless you write historical fiction or something techy about planes or tanks, in which case, someone will tear you a new arse on the Amazon reviews for having a character use slightly the wrong type of teacup or fix their engine with the wrong spanner
- A bit of ego is fine but don’t go around lording it over other writers like you are God’s gift to literature. You aren’t Tolstoy (unless you’re Tolstoy, in which case congratulations on defeating death and discovering the internet). Your work might change someone’s life but more than likely it will just briefly entertain them, and that’s good enough