Algonquin authors, a spectacularly talented lot, are also exceptionally generous with their hard-earned writing advice. During the dog days of summer, even the most dedicated writer’s momentum can stall, so we’ve compiled another installment of Algonkian wisdom to help you keep going.
Bill Roorbach, author of Life Among Giants and the forthcoming The Remedy for Love, on sitting down and simply getting it done: “Writing sucks, let’s face it. But not writing sucks more. Which is what keeps me writing. When the motivation isn’t there, it’s almost always because I’m tired and need to look away for a little bit. So I walk and draw and think a lot and see friends and have a drink and read galore (although reading is sometimes as hard as writing, really part of my writing day), and that in turn creates the inspiration, that big breath in that makes it possible to breathe out again.” [Originally published on Bill and Dave’s Cocktail Hour]
Julia Alvarez, author of A Wedding in Haiti, on pushing yourself as a writer: “I need to be reading things I am excited about, things that are maintaining a certain level of awareness in me, language that is setting a high standard for the clarity and luminosity words are capable of; otherwise, my own writing is not going well. My own living isn’t going well. They’re all part of the same thing—reading and writing and living. Reading is one of the ways I stay conscious. You know how in a choir, the choir leader will play a note that the singers are going to begin with? Good writing, excellent writing plays that note for me so I can pitch my own voice at that level, or try to.” [Originally published on Identity Theory]
Lauren Grodstein, on the value of gratitude: “I write with the idea that nobody will care about what I’ve written; I publish with the idea that nobody will care either. Which is why every time somebody cares enough to read a novel of mine, or respond to it – a reader, a reviewer, even my own editor – I’m a little bit amazed, and so hugely grateful.” [Originally published on Salon.com]
Rebecca Lee, author of the short-story collection Bobcat and Other Stories, on epiphanies in fiction: “It can be a kind of mental torture for a writer to think about epiphany, about the story needing to rise to some sort of clearing where an idea is suddenly freely expressed in the midst of drama, but I think it’s a productive torture. One never gets that right, never! But maybe the story benefits from the struggle.” [Originally published on Oxford American]
Lin Enger, author of the forthcoming novel The High Divide, on trusting your characters to guide you to the proper ending: “It ends as it must end, given who my characters are and who they become along the way. Character, after all, is the beating heart of fiction, and writers need to employ whatever plot will allow them to mine the potential of their characters in a way that’s convincing and authentic.” [Originally published on Glimmer Train]
Julie Wu, author of The Third Son, on getting it done: “Don’t worry about getting stuff out fast. Make your work the best it can be. Agents and editors are just people like everyone else. If tons of them don’t connect to your work, that means tons of other readers won’t either. If that matters to you, figure out why and fix it.” [Originally published on Library Thing]