This interview just came out today. I talk about my new novel Too Shattered For Mending, what a real writing process looks like, having no talent, hip-hop, and my next book – An American Afterlife:
The Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik wrote this in the middle of one of her poems in 1965 (when she was 29) and it made me think of the writing process:
“And there is, in this waiting,
a rumor of breaking lilac.
And there is, when the day arrives,
a division of the sun into smaller black suns.
And at night, always,
a tribe of mutilated words
looks for refuge in my throat…”
In Spanish, it’s a little different, but the same idea (for example, “espera” could mean “waiting” or “hoping” in this context, etc.):
“Hay, en la espera,
un rumor a lila rompiéndose.
Y hay, cuando viene el día,
una partición del sol en pequeños soles negros.
Y cuando es de noche, siempre,
una tribu de palabras mutiladas
busca asilo en mi garganta…”
The writing process can be incredibly simple:
Write more and you’ll write better.
Read high quality writing and you’ll write better.
Read well AND write a lot, and you’ll be even better still.
But a few writers, editors, and agents have written excellent books on the process, the craft, style, structure, and motivation. Going into the new year, many writers are looking for texts that will help improve their writing, help them get a first story published or finish revising that novel. The following five books are some of the best texts I’ve read for specific writing instruction:
Stein explains, “This is not a book of theory. It is a book of usable solutions–how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is good, how to create interesting writing in the first place.”
Another book written by an experienced editor. This book was incredibly helpful leading up to the sale of my first book. Lerner guides an aspiring author through the entire process.
A lot of literary writers are snobs about Stephen King, but I don’t understand that attitude. King has put in the work, understands plot better than most writers ever born, loves his readers, and markets incredibly well too. This book is half memoir and half how-to, the second half of the book working as a nuts-and-bolts guide. If you read On Writing, it will be useful.
An anthology of short essays by America’s literary greats on topics like “obsession,” “illusion,” “first love,” and “beginnings.” Any writer, published or unpublished, will get something out of this collection.
No “how to write” list is complete without Lamott’s best book. She is brave, honest, truthful, harsh, and funny. I kept quotes from Bird By Bird above my writing desk while struggling through my first failed novel. Lamott kept me going.