In February 2010, Franzen (along with writers including Richard Ford, Zadie Smith and Anne Enright) was asked by The Guardian to contribute what he believed were ten serious rules to abide by for aspiring writers. Franzen's rules ran as follows:
1. The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.
2. Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money.
3. Never use the word "then" as a conjunction – we have "and" for this purpose. Substituting "then" is the lazy or tone-deaf writer's non-solution to the problem of too many "ands" on the page.
4. Write in the third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.
5. When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.
6. The most purely autobiographical fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more autobiographical story than "The Metamorphosis".
7. You see more sitting still than chasing after.
8. It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction [the TIME magazine cover story detailed how Franzen physically disables the Net portal on his writing laptop].
9. Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.
10. You have to love before you can be relentless.