Letters to A Young Writer


Creating Characters

Discovering who your character truly is, is one of the great joys of fiction writing. There is little better than creating someone from the dust of your imagination. But inventing a character from scratch is not simply a matter of ransacking the low shelves of the nearest fiction-supermarket. Your characters must be real. Full. Complicated.…

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Who’s Your Ideal Reader?

There is often a lot of talk about who is your ideal reader. Ultimately it has to be you. You are the one who has to take responsibility for it in the end. You must be prepared to listen to the deepest, most critical part of yourself. When you write something, try to imagine yourself…

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Blurbs (or The Art of Literary Porn)

Blurbs are the older writer’s nightmare. Either he does them or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, he’s an asshole. If he does, he’s an asshole too – unless she blurbs yours, whereupon she is an angel, a godsend, a creature divine. But how do you get a blurb in the first place? You beg, you…

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Allow the Reader’s Intelligence

Never say too much in your story or your poem or anywhere else for that matter. Never dictate. (Alas, he dictates). Avoid pointing out what your stories mean. Trust your reader. One of the great rules of writing classes is “Show, Don’t tell.” What this means is that you must guide a reader through unfamiliar…

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Read, read, read

You would be amazed by the amount of writers who just do not read. Especially older writers who believe that they are the only ones who deserve to be read. Their reading world shrinks. They believe that they have written enough that they can afford now to come indoors. They close the curtains. They deposit…

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  Rejoice. Read Joyce.    

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If You’re Done, You’ve Only Just Begun

Just because you’ve written a book doesn’t mean that you’ve actually finished a book. A book might take a few years to write, but even after it’s written it still has to be finished. Writing is about 75 percent of the job. There’s the editing. And then there’s the editing. Oh and then there’s the…

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How Old is a Young Writer?

How old is a young writer? The young writer is any age. Seventeen, sixty, forty-six, who cares. The youngest of young writers always wants that book out before they’re eighteen or at the very latest twenty-five. It’s a noble ambition and not one to be scuppered, but if you don’t make it, don’t fret. Thirty…

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Smash That Mirror

Writing can hurt. Frankly it doesn’t matter if it hurts just you alone, but if it begins to hurt others, especially those near and dear to you, you should smash that mirror you’re staring into. Stop writing about yourself. Don’t steal directly from your friend’s life. Don’t write about your father’s woes. Don’t use your…

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Don’t Be A Dick

Don’t get attached to the romantic illusions of yourself as a writer. It’s not about cocaine or the White Horse Tavern or the vial of laudanum or the late night of bottled beer bravado. It’s not about the hangover. Or the warehouse party. Or the jacket photo. Or the Facebook entries. Or the tweets or…

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A Hero of Consciousness

The whole point of good literature is to make newness durable. You are creating alternative time. You are making vivid that which did not exist before. You are not just the clockmaker, but the measure of the clockmaker’s creation. This is quite a responsibility. You are shaping past, present, future. Respect it. Maintain it. Begin.…

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No Literary Olympics

Learn this: you don’t write in competition with others. There are no Olympics in literature. No gold medal, no silver, no bronze, even if the award ceremonies suggest that it is so. You will soon find out that the word best is not part of the true endgame vocabulary, though the word better can be…

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