Writing Advice From Mark Haddon: “It’s Not About You”

By Jack Limpert

One of the books I reread every few years is Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It’s the story of a young boy, Christopher Boone, who goes out to his backyard late one night and discovers that his neighbor’s dog has been killed with a garden fork . It quickly becomes clear that Christopher sees the world in unusual ways, the ways a child with Asperger’s syndrome, a kind of autism, might see it. The story follows Christopher’s attempt to play detective and find out who killed the dog. For the reader, it’s a chance to see the world through the eyes of an autistic boy.

Haddon won the Whitbread book prize for the novel and it sold more than two million copies. In 2004 he talked about writing it, saying, “The book has simple language, a carefully shaped plot and invites you to enter someone else’s life.”

He then gives this advice to writers: “It’s not about you….Readers don’t want an insight into your mind, thrilling as it might be. They want an insight into their own…a book that will put them in touch with a part of themselves they didn’t even know existed.”

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