We know readers tend to be writers too, so we feature writing tips from our authors. Who better to offer advice, insight, and inspiration than the authors you admire? They’ll answer several questions about their work, share their go-to techniques and more. Now, get writing!
What writing techniques have you found most important or memorable?
I write really fast, not worrying about making mistakes when I’m working on a first draft. I think novice writers make a mistake when they worry too much about where their novel is going, or get buried in too much outline. Surprise yourself, sentence by sentence; don’t worry about the next chapter. In reality, the first page of your novel is the most important of all. It’s where you define the pace and mood of your story.
What’s the best piece of advice you have received?
I was fortunate enough to study with the late Grace Paley. I remember showing her a story and she told me there was no conflict in it. I gave her this blank face, so she suddenly slapped her hands together, so that I could hear what conflict was. It was the simplest writing lesson I’ve ever had, but one that I’ve never forgotten.
What are three or four books that influenced your writing, or had a profound affect on you?
Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry is fantastic. These are connected short stories based on the civil war in Russia and he has this enviable minimalistic style. He doesn’t waste a single word.
Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver. Carver is the American version of Babel to me. These were the stories that blew me away in graduate school, especially the way the morality of each piece ends up being thrown upon the reader. I love writers who don’t tie things up neatly for the reader.
Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky was one of those books I read as a kid that put me in a trance. Movies never had the same levitating effect on me as a novel like that.
Describe your writing style in five words or less.
An endless sense of dread.
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