For those of you who missed last month’s reading at Housing Works Bookstore, here’s a clip of Lauren Beukes, Lev Grossman, and Jeff VanderMeer discussing how they built out the worlds within their novels.
Posts tagged writing
From Today's Goodreads Chat with Richard Montanari
- Barbara: I very much admire authors who deliver compelling serial characters. Do you have any advice on how to keep their stories fresh and interesting over the years?
- Richard Montanari: One way to keep characters fresh is to have them, more or less, age in real time. Also, when they survive a life-changing event, they should emerge changed.
The chicken comes first, but so does the egg. And somewhere in the relationship between them coalesces a novel. I can’t necessarily recommend this approach, as it can lead to periods of ear-bleeding confusion and doubt, but it’s how I do. And it’s how life works too, of course. We perform actions in order to make things happen: but things happen, too, and cause us to perform actions as a result. Causality is not a one-way street, and neither is the relationship between research and creation. Research is a type of creation, or can be. I don’t want to impose a plot upon a novel. I would rather discover it within what transpires on the page in front of me—and in this case, growing of what I found, by accident, amidst the streets of New York.
babyiowa said: Hey man, I finished reading Skinner today and I loved it. Your books mean a lot to me, and if you don't mind I'd like to ask you for a little advice. How much importance would you place on actual writing schooling (like college courses/programs) for someone that wants to be a writer?
My personal experience with writing programs was my first semester at CSUSF. I enrolled in the creative writing program, and by the end of the semester I was dropping classes to keep my GPA just high enough to land on academic probation instead of being expelled outright. The following semester I loaded up on theater classes to lift my GPA, and never took another writing course in my life.
But the only conclusion you can really draw from that story is that me at that age and that writing program in that year were not compatible. I’m certain that there are any number of terrific programs out there that are genuinely productive in terms of helping their students to become better writers.
That said, I imagine that the single largest benefit of any writing program is that it is a focused environment devoted to the act of writing. Unless you become a professional writer earning a living wage off your work, you are unlikely to ever again be in such an environment and have a concentrated span of time during which you can devote yourself to your writing with few other distractions. The irony being that most students will only be in a position to avail themselves of this environment when they are at an age where their long term prospects as a writer might be better served by doing a whole lot of shit so as to accrue that life experience stuff.
What we in the trade refer to as: Shit to write about.
There is no good answer.
I have only two pieces of solid advice to anyone who wants to write for a living: Read and write a lot, and repeat.
As brutal as it sounds, if you have to struggle to get yourself to write and produce pages, that probably means that you’re not a writer. Desire and ideas are easy; sitting down and putting them on paper day after day is hard.
If you are a self-motivated writer who can’t stop worrying away at a thing until it’s “finished,” you may also be a good candidate for spreading your energy around into other areas rather than living in a scrivener’s hot house. If you have trouble self-starting and keeping at it, a writing program might teach you a new level of self-discipline that will carry you forward.
Regardless, go grab something by the short and curlies and don’t let go.
Whenever our authors give writing advice, I am reminded that these writers are my heroes.