It's a Bad Life
Advice to Writers | Writing Advice Blog
by Jon Winokur
1d ago
Writers spend more time in rooms, staying awake in quiet rooms, than they do hunting lions in Africa. So, it’s a bad life for a person because it’s so lonely and because it consists of such highs and lows, and there’s not always anywhere to take these emotional states.… It’s a life that’s tough to sustain without falling prey to some kind of beguiling diversion that’s not good for you. ROBERT STONE ..read more
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Surprises Happen
Advice to Writers | Writing Advice Blog
by Jon Winokur
2d ago
I invariably have the illusion that the whole play of a story, its start and middle and finish, occur in my mind simultaneously—that I’m seeing it in one flash. But in the working out, the writing out, infinite surprises happen. Thank God, because surprise, the twist, the phrase that comes at the right moment out of nowhere, is the unexpected dividend, that joyful little push that keeps a writer going. TRUMAN CAPOTE ..read more
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Why Short Stories?
Advice to Writers | Writing Advice Blog
by Jon Winokur
3d ago
Why short stories? I really don’t know. Maybe it’s at least partly because I’m very slow—I’m a shockingly slow reader, I write extremely slowly, I walk slowly, I think slowly. Much of my reading when I was young was short fiction, because it takes me about as long to read a story as it takes most people to read a novel, and I suppose I developed a taste for the sort of mystery to which concision is especially conducive, and for the athleticism that lacunae ask of the reader. DEBORAH EISENBERG ..read more
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Poets Are Lucky
Advice to Writers | Writing Advice Blog
by Jon Winokur
4d ago
I’d go so far as to say that poetry, as a practice, necessitates a sense of joy. It’s exhilarating to come into contact with the things we write into being. And a real sense of play and abandon – even when we are relying on hard-won technique, and even when the aim is deadly serious. How often do we get the excuse to stop, think, and then stop thinking altogether and try to listen to what sits behind or outside of our thoughts? Poets are lucky. TRACY K. SMITH ..read more
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Every Page a Cliffhanger
Advice to Writers | Writing Advice Blog
by Jon Winokur
5d ago
Writing simply means no dependent clauses, no dangling things, no flashbacks, and keeping the subject near the predicate. We throw in as many fresh words we can get away with. Simple, short sentences don’t always work. You have to do tricks with pacing, alternate long sentences with short, to keep it vital and alive.... Virtually every page is a cliffhanger--you’ve got to force them to turn it. DR. SEUSS (Theodor Seuss Geisel ..read more
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There's No Age Limit
Advice to Writers | Writing Advice Blog
by Jon Winokur
1w ago
Every time I write a new novel, I tell myself, Okay, here is what I’m going to try to accomplish, and I set concrete goals for myself—for the most part visible, technical types of goals. I enjoy writing like that. As I clear a new hurdle and accomplish something different, I get a real sense that I’ve grown, even if only a little, as a writer. It’s like climbing, step-by-step, up a ladder. The wonderful thing about being a novelist is that even in your 50s and 60s, that kind of growth and innovation is possible. There’s no age limit. The same wouldn’t hold true for an athlete. HARUKI MURAKAMI ..read more
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Be Receptive to the World
Advice to Writers | Writing Advice Blog
by Jon Winokur
1w ago
I’ll sometimes go months without writing, which is not something I used to do. I used to write every day. I still take a lot of notes, but I think I allow myself more time to be receptive to the world, as opposed to always worrying about saying something. As I’ve gotten older, my process is now a little bit messier and more unpredictable. And yet, I trust it a little more. ADA LIMÓN ..read more
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Composition
Advice to Writers | Writing Advice Blog
by Jon Winokur
1w ago
This is my story: I worked and I was tortured. You know what it means to compose? No, thank God, you do not! I believe you have never written to order, by the yard, and have never experienced that hellish torture. Having received in advance from the Russky Viestnik so much money (Horror! 4,500 rubles). I fully hoped in the beginning of the year that poesy would not desert me, that the poetical idea would flash out and develop artistically towards the end of the year and that I should succeed in satisfying everyone. All through the summer and all through the autumn I selected various ideas (som ..read more
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Humor
Advice to Writers | Writing Advice Blog
by Jon Winokur
1w ago
Humor comes from the surprise release of some buried tension. It may be buried in the story by the author or buried in the world of the story—a shallow grave will suffice—or the reader may bring his or her own sedimented feelings to bear upon the reading. Often it is several things simultaneously. Some expectation, however, must be disrupted. Wordplay itself is not usually funny, only clever, unless it is attached to some other psychological force in the narrative. (I am often interested in mishearings—part of the comedy of misunderstanding—which employs an accidentally generated wordplay. The ..read more
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The Idea on Which Fiction Is Built
Advice to Writers | Writing Advice Blog
by Jon Winokur
1w ago
This is the idea on which fiction is built. When I call up the concept “my first kiss,” neurons light up in my head (a golf course! A 1969 Camaro! The smell of a now-discontinued 1970s perfume!). Then I type that phrase and you read it and neurons light up in your head in a pattern similar, but not identical to, the one in my head, and we are both, somehow, united, around the concept “first kiss.” GEORGE SAUNDERS ..read more
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