The 6 Reactions Book-Lovers Have to People Who Don’t Read

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There are many ways to get passionate reactions out of hardcore book nerds. Tell us Twilight deserves a place in the pantheon of great vampire literature next to Stoker’s Dracula and Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. Ask us where we stand in the e-book vs. print book debate. Mention the ongoing Amazon-Hachette feud. Bring up any book-to-film adaptation, ever. It’s not a question of whether we’ll have opinions, but rather when we will stop beating you over the head with them with all the force of a hardcover edition of Les Miserables.

However, if you really want to whip a book-lover into a Tempest-like frenzy of emotions, all you need are four little words: “I don’t read books.”

I’ve heard those words, or similar variations (“I haven’t read a book since school,” or, even more mind-blowing, “Reading is boring”) many times in my life, and without fail, they inspire within me a tangle of emotions that leaves me speechless, at least momentarily (which is no easy feat). I understand that not everyone can enjoy reading as thoroughly as I do (actually, that’s probably a good thing; if that were the case, I’m pretty sure nothing productive would ever be accomplished), but to genuinely dislike the act of reading? You may as well say you don’t like breathing or eating.

Conversations with fellow book-lovers reveal that we all tend to have the same reactions to these rare and mysterious creatures: What … How… Why…??

It’s for their benefit, as well as the benefit of those who dare blaspheme our precious pastime with callow disregard, that I sat down to sift through the varying emotions book nerds experience when we hear those heartbreaking words: “I don’t read books.” The struggle is real. Here’s what happens next…

1. Shock/Disbelief

You … don’t … read … books? You mean, like, you don’t read novels, but you read nonfiction and stuff like that, right? No? You just straight-up do not read words printed in ink on paper and bound between two covers. Really?

2. Confusion

I see your lips moving. I hear words coming out of your mouth. They sound like English, but I can’t comprehend them. You can read, but you choose not to.

But why? Do you not have books? Do you need books? What did books do to you to make you scorn them so? Did they take you out for a nice seafood dinner and then never call you again? What do you do instead of reading, sit around and stare at things? So. Many. Questions.

3. Judgment

If I’ve known you for awhile and you reveal this, suddenly everything I thought I knew about you has been called into question. You’re lucky enough to be among the percentage of adults who can read and you choose not to exercise that privilege?

What other deep, dark secrets have you been hiding from me? Were you actually sick that night you had to cancel our plans? Do I really know you at all? And in the case that you’re someone I just met, and you tell me you don’t like to read…

4. Pity

This feeling can happen simultaneously with judgment. Do you even understand what you’re missing? Books let us travel to more locations than we could ever visit in a lifetime, as well as awesome places that don’t exist in the real world. They introduce us to amazing friends and give us kick-ass heroes to root for. They teach us, inspire us, evoke our emotions. But you’re depriving yourself of all that and it just makes me so, so sad.

5. Persuasion

It can’t be that you don’t like to read, you just haven’t found the right book yet. What interests you? Humour? History? Sports? Dwarfs? Humorous historical dwarfs playing sports? I don’t care how many hours we have to spend in the library, I will find a book you like. And I will make you love them!

6. Acceptance

No? Really? You’re absolutely, definitely not interested in one of the most beloved pastimes of the last 600 years? *Sigh* I don’t understand it, but I guess it’s true that it takes all kinds of people to make the world. So fine, be like that. And don’t worry, I can love books enough for the both of us.

***

Via: https://www.bustle.com/articles/36433-the-6-reactions-book-lovers-have-to-people-who-dont-read

15 Reading Pet Peeves Every Book-Lover Understands

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It’s a proven fact that reading is the best hobby ever – any book-lover will tell you so. No matter your preferred genre or medium, there’s an endless supply of books to capture your interest and they can serve as everything from entertainment to distraction. It’s an overwhelmingly positive pastime, but I will admit that reading does occasionally have moments of inconvenience and even of frustration. At the end of the day, however, it’s usually not books themselves that are the problem, but external factors instead. We’ll call them reading pet peeves.

For bookworms, reading can often be therapeutic and relaxing, yet there are a variety of things that are all but guaranteed to raise their blood pressure nonetheless. These reading pet peeves are pretty universal, so any true reader will likely understand the annoyance they can cause. Fortunately, most are minor, rating a facepalm or a huff of frustration. It’s only the most severe offenses that make a perfectly good book suddenly look tempting as a projectile.

If you’re a reading addict, let’s commiserate over the following 15 reading pet peeves that have probably ruffled your feathers from time to time. Non-readers, please take note to avoid any of the annoying activities and occurrences below.

1. Spoilers

Is there anything worse than finding out what’s going to happen in the book you’re reading (or planning to read) before you get there? I think not.

2. Books You Don’t Like That Become Wildly Popular

It’s amazing to see books you adore get the recognition they deserve, but when books with problematic characters or storylines top the best-seller lists, it’s beyond irritating. Worse still? When film studios snap up the movie rights and you know you’re going to have to keep hearing about them. Grrrr!

3. Delayed Release Dates

You can’t really blame authors when they have to push back a book’s release date – life happens, plans change. Still, knowing you’ve got an even longer wait for reading material you’ve been looking forward to is zero fun.

4. People Who Are Careless With Borrowed Books

I don’t think it’s too much for us to expect people to treat borrowed property well, but sadly, not everyone has learned that lesson. If you’ve ever lent out a book, only to get it back in worse condition, I feel your pain.

5. People Who Are Careless With Books In General

Even if they’re not actually your books, it can be cringe-worthy to watch someone crease their book jacket or haphazardly drip coffee over the pages.

6. Waiting For Library Books

Libraries are up there on a book-lover’s list of favourite things, but having to wait on a hold list is not. Patience is a virtue, of course, but it’s not easy to come by when there’s a story you’re dying to get your hands on.

7. Being Judged For Wanting To Stay In And Read

When all you want to do is curl up for the evening with a good book, there’s no shame. The only shame should be directed at those who would guilt you or judge you for it.

8. Movie Adaptations With Plot Deviations

Bringing a book to screen has its challenges, but when the movie adaptation takes all kinds of unnecessary liberties with the original plot, it’s enough to infuriate any fan of the work.

9. Books With Promising Starts That Go Downhill

It feels like a betrayal when the story you’re reading starts out strong, only to suddenly take a turn for the worse. But more annoying then that is when you buy a book that promises a certain story on the jacket, only to find you’ve been mis-sold a completely different story. All that potential, those hopes and dreams, just ripped away.

10. Being Interrupted While Reading

It should go without saying that when you have a volume in hand, you should be left in peace. Unfortunately, not everyone seems to know this unwritten rule.

11. Poorly Edited Books

A minor typo can be forgiven, but repeated errors and grammatical disasters? Not so much.

12. Purses Too Small To Carry Books

A purse is meant to carry the necessities, so if it can’t fit a book or an e-reader, it’s failing at its purpose.

13. That Moment When Your E-Reader’s Battery Dies

Even after all the warnings of low battery, it’s still annoying when your e-reader actually dies. My own device takes several minutes to power back up again whenever this happens, and on top of that, it typically loses my most recent page. Oh, the inconvenience!

14. Hearing People Say They Don’t Like To Read

Is not enjoying reading really a thing? We book-lovers just don’t get the mentality.

15. Anything That Conflicts With Reading

Basically, anything that interferes with reading – especially when you’ve reached a cliffhanger – is a serious problem.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, it’s back to our happy place. Happy reading everyone!

***

Via: https://www.bustle.com/articles/128971-15-reading-pet-peeves-every-book-lover-understands

“What Does Your Husband Think of Your Novel?”| Jamie Quatro

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The spring my first book came out – a collection of stories, several of which detailed an erotic but unconsummated emotional affair – I was invited to speak at an all-men’s book club. I was excited such a club existed in my town. I told them I’d love to come. Southern male readers of fiction with serious literary habits!

The meeting was held in the home of one of the members. About a dozen men showed up. We milled around and made the usual small talk. We ate good Mexican food and drank good Spanish wine and eventually gathered on sofas and chairs around the coffee table. I gave a brief talk about my “creative process” – something they’d asked me to discuss – and opened it up for questions.

No one said anything. Men shifted in leather cushions and flipped through their copies of my book. It was hot out. Someone kept opening and closing the sliding back door in little screechy increments. Maybe no one actually read it, I thought.

Finally the man sitting in the chair across from me flung his book onto the coffee table. “Okay,” he said, “I’ll just say it, because we’re all wondering the same thing: What in the hell does your husband think about your work?”

I can’t remember what came out of my mouth. Probably the laugh and the “he’s my first reader and he’s always been a hundred percent supportive” line I would grow accustomed to trotting out in the following months, when the same question surfaced again and again – from strangers after readings, from acquaintances in my town. What I do remember is what was happening inside my brain: What does my husband’s opinion of my book have to do with anything?

And: If I were a male fiction writer, writing about illicit sex, would you ask what my wife thought about my work?

*

Let’s be clear: “What does your husband think about your work” is a ruse. Beneath that query is the real question: Did you, the author, do the things the female character does in your narrative? If so, how’d you get away with writing about it? Isn’t your husband hurt? And aren’t you ashamed?

A general curiosity about the relationship between a writer’s real life and her fiction is natural. How does an artist work? I could argue that there’s a compliment behind the autobiographical query: if a reader feels I must have lived through an event, that tells me, in part, that I’ve written convincingly. And given the similarities between some of my characters and myself – a married woman with children who lives in the South – I understand how certain readers might assume there’s a comprehensive, one-to-one correlation between my fiction and my life.

But I don’t take these questions as compliments. Rather, they feel like expressions of doubt as to my imaginative capacities as an artist – specifically as an artist who writes about female sexual longing and transgression. I wrote about a woman who lives in the South with her husband and children while she battles cancer. Not one reader has asked me if I’ve had cancer. I wrote about a woman with children whose husband is a suicidal benzo addict, and who nearly gives up her religious faith because of it. Not one reader has asked if my husband is a suicidal benzo addict, or if I’ve nearly given up my faith because of it.

So why the questions about the sex often couched as curiosity about my husband’s response? Buried in these questions are four dubious assumptions:

1. It is more important and interesting to talk about you, the author behind the work, than it is to discuss the work itself.

It’s remarkable how quickly we turn our gaze from artifact to artist. When Walter Hooper asked C. S. Lewis if he ever thought about the fact that his books were “winning him worship,” Lewis replied, “One cannot be too careful not to think of it.” When you ask about my personal life, you’re missing the point. This finished book we’ve sent out into the world – that’s the pearl of great price. If we’re going to talk about anything, that’s the place we should start.

2. I recognize certain things in your work – the town where you live, the number of children you have – so everything else must be true as well.

Most writers aren’t interested in writing about what we’ve actually done. Most of us write to find out what it would be like to do things we haven’t done. It’s a chance to take the roads not taken. To solve mysteries, on the page, that we’ll never get to solve in our lives. The artistic imagination is a powerful thing. It’s all I have, the tool of my trade. I feel profoundly, ruthlessly protective of it. When a reader makes the assumption that a writer is simply recording the life she’s lived, that reader is discounting the artist’s primary gift.

Fiction begins with small, lower-case truths, then translates them into a larger lie that ultimately reveals the largest truths. “None of it happened and all of it’s true,” said Ann Patchett’s mother.

3. The way I feel reading your book must be the way you felt while writing it.

If you feel ashamed or aroused or uncomfortable reading my fiction, that’s bloody fantastic. That’s why I write: black marks on a white page reaching across time and space and palpably affecting another human soul. But how do you know I felt those same things when I was drafting? (Much less how my husband felt reading my drafts?) The passages that feel “confessional” or “erotically charged” to a reader might be the very places where I felt distanced or intellectually elated in the act of composition. And it was precisely because those were the places where the artistic imagination was free to roam.

A friend of mine who writes nonfiction told me she feels the same thing when people tell her they appreciate the “vulnerability” of her prose. Funny you think I was being vulnerable, she wants to say, because when I wrote that, I just felt like a fucking badass. 

4. A man who writes about sexual infidelity is normal, while a woman who does the same is morally suspect.

Here we reach the crux. The questions “how does your husband feel?” or “how autobiographical is your work?” actually mean, “did you commit these sexually subversive acts?” The assumptions and judgments are gendered. How are we still, in 2018, dealing with the notion that men think about illicit sex as a matter of course; but women – well, women should be more demure? If we’re going to live in a society where we aren’t taken advantage of and/or shamed in our personal and professional lives, surely we can begin by not shaming one another for our sexual imaginations. Or questioning that women are capable of that imagination to begin with.

*

Men, in particular, both mythologize and undermine female artists. But women do it to one another, too. On a recent press trip, a woman told me my latest novel, Fire Sermon, was “memoirish” and “confessional.” She said it blurred the distinction between life and art. This from a woman I’d never met. Yes, the character uses a confessional tone, I said. The character writes journal entries and prayers as ways to assuage her guilt, longing, and grief. Perhaps that’s what she meant by memoirish? But my novel was not a memoir. Those journal entries were not my own.

Last night, I did a Q and A with a local writing group. One of the first questions was from a woman: “You set a lot of your work locally … so is everything you write autobiographical?” I mentioned that I was, that very day, working on an essay about the question “what does your husband think?” “That’s what I wanted to ask!” she said.

Men, women: Let’s assume the female writer needn’t have lived out the narrative to write it. Let’s assume that she can have an imagination that is subversive and sexually transgressive.

And let’s assume the artist’s husband feels pretty fucking badass to be married to her.

***

Jamie Quatro is the author of the just-released novel Fire Sermon, as well as the story collection I Want to Show You More. She lives in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, where she’s at work on a new novel and story collection.

Via https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2018/01/16/husband-think-novel/

10 Things You Should Avoid As A New Writer

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You can write about any subject in any format, whether you’re a blogger, a playwright, a novelist, a freelancer, a screen writer, the list goes on and on.

However, if you’re new to the industry, you’ll have a long way to go before you become one of the best. As with any profession, you’ll experience hurdles and obstacles along the way in situations where you’ll have to learn from your mistakes.

To give you the best possible head start, we’ll explore ten key aspects of writing that you should avoid.

1. Don’t Set a Path

There’s no set path in the writing world. Imagine you wanted to be a lawyer. You’ll go to university, learn everything you need to know, get a job at the bottom of a firm and then you’ll work your way up.

The writing industry has no structure. One moment you could be writing as a freelancer and the next, one of your blogs has gone viral, and you’ve got blogging requests coming in from all angles. As a rule of thumb, do what works for you. Just take things one step at a time.

2. Don’t Be Someone You’re Not

Everybody is different. There’s no point in writing if you’re going to copy the same style and language as one of your writing idols because that’s not you, that’s copying.

Experiment with some different writing styles and formats and see what works best for you. Most importantly, find the style and format that you enjoy.

With this aspect of writing, you’ll get the chance to experiment to find your feet in what kind of writer you’ll be. The more you experiment, the more you’ll discover your own style, the more you’ll enjoy writing and the more productive and successful you’ll be.

3. Never Stop Brainstorming

Even when you’re applying for freelancing jobs, never stop thinking about what you can write about. Maybe you want to publish a book; maybe you want to become a food blogger, whatever you want to be, constantly be thinking about how you can move forward. Never forget to write your ideas down and keep referring to them.

Keeping a journal or ‘thought diary’ is one of the easiest ways to jot down your thoughts as they come to you. It’s also important that you refer back to these thoughts when you can. You never know when you’ll be able to combine two ideas into one winning idea.

4. Don’t Get Disheartened by Feedback

If you’re working as a freelancer, the chances are that not every job will be a five-star rating. When that inevitable low rating comes in, don’t let it break your stride. As with any business, your services won’t be for everyone. Simply take on board the advice, better your skills and move forward.

5. Never Forget the Basics

Spelling, grammar, punctuation, language, format and structure. These are just a few aspects of writing which are essential to master if you want to succeed. Even if you have deadlines closing in on you rapidly, never forget the basics.

Always take your time when checking over your work. One mistake to the wrong client and it can seriously damage your credibility and your reputation.

6. Don’t Get Envious

You may be reading a blog or an article by a writer, and you’ll notice thousands of shares and comments, don’t think ‘Damn, I wish I had that kind of engagement’, you’re just starting out, and it will come with practice.

Take on board the positives and move forward, don’t hate someone because of their success.

Every master of any skill started as a beginner at some point in their lives. As before, take each day as it comes and take your writing career one step at a time. Be open to new opportunities and really explore the multitude of options that are available to you.

7. Don’t Lock Yourself Away

As with any career, life is all about balance. It’s easy to take on a ton of work or to sit down to work on a bulk load of projects, but you’re confining yourself to your desk. Get outside, go for a walk, see some friends and family members. Don’t forget to live your life.

With mounting deadlines and pressure from clients, especially if you’re freelancing, it’s easy to get caught up with working all the time. However, if your aim is to work as a blogger for yourself, it’s important that you set aside time for yourself to explore your ideas and your own concepts.

One piece of advice to live by is to dedicate time aside every other day to write an article for yourself to go on your blog.

8. Never Stop Reading

Whatever format you love the most, whether it’s eBooks, stories, fan-fiction, articles, blogs or research studies, reading is your greatest friend as a writer. By exploring new worlds, concepts and ideas, reading can open your mind up in new and exciting ways.

Not only will reading teach you so much more about writing, as well as tips on aspects such as sentence structure and new concepts, it will also help you to take a break from everyday writing, giving you a chance to relax and to breathe.

One other piece of advice to live by is stepping out of your comfort zone now and then. You may like a specific genre of book or author, but it can change your world by going into a bookshop and asking for a random recommendation. You never know what you’ll be reading next, and you might even discover a new favourite.

9. Don’t Avoid Tips and Advice Pages

At the Olympics, there can only be one gold medallist. However, in the writing world, there is room for an infinite number of successful writers. It is one aspect you should never forget.

Many writers are happy to share their experience and advice with the rest of the community so take on board what they are saying and never dismiss it. One piece of advice could change your life.

Some websites, such as Writer’s Digest, are dedicated help you be the best you can.

10 Never Give Up

Nobody who wanted to get somewhere amazing ever had an easy ride. Whether you wanted to climb Mount Everest or become President, it’s a struggle to get to where you want to be.

No matter how hard life is for you and no matter what it throws in your face, never give up, keep digging, keep tapping, keep scribbling and stay motivated.

Via: https://www.justpublishingadvice.com/10-things-you-should-avoid-as-a-new-writer/

According to J.K Rowling, magic can strike you anywhere – including on the back of a sick bag!

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If you’re a fan of Harry Potter and his author J.K. Rowling, you probably know that the author has a penchant for writing on some decidedly unconventional surfaces. It is a well-known legend that Rowling first jotted down her initial thoughts and ideas for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on a napkin while sitting on a delayed train from Manchester to London back in 1990. And it was revealed in 2017 that Rowling has a dress hanging in her closet with an unpublished manuscript written all over it. So Rowling’s most recent admission of just where she first scribbled her thoughts for the four Hogwarts Houses is not exactly surprising, though it is inspiring.

In a series of tweets published by the author on 15 December 2017, she related some of her writing habits and thoughts on the HP series to curious readers. But it was in a response to one user @LizWintersMM who wrote, “Years ago, at a birthday party, with no notebook in my purse I was forced to write on napkins when inspiration struck. Now I always carry a notebook, but I’ve also been know to use my evernote app for random notes,” that Rowling revealed her own lightning bolt of inspiration.

In the tweet Rowling writes, “The best thing I ever wrote on was an aeroplane sick bag. Came up with the Hogwarts houses on it.” Can’t you just picture Rowling gazing out the window, watching the clouds float by, when suddenly Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin pop into her head? It almost seems like a fantasy story itself, but if we know anything about Rowling at this point, its that her mind, and her world building process, doesn’t work quite like most people’s. And thank Dumbledore for that!

The Twitter conversation about writing processes first started when Rowling shared a tweet thread from author Ruth Ware, in which she wrote, “Apropos of nothing in particular, I keep seeing posts about ‘you MUST do this and it will improve your work’ or ‘REAL writers do this, if you don’t you’re not a real writer.’ I have never seen a tweet like this that I agreed with.”

Rowling hopped on to say that she agreed with Ware, and the rest is now locked away in Harry Potter history.

It’s super gratifying to see succesful authors like Rowling and Ware turning their noses up at ideas of what ‘real writers’ should or shouldn’t do, and encouraging people to let their inspiration strike whenever, and wherever it may. It seems, so long as you have an idea worth capturing, that’s all the magic you could ever need.

***

Via: https://www.bustle.com/p/jk-rowling-reveals-she-came-up-with-hogwarts-houses-on-the-back-of-airplane-vomit-bag-7607721

Man Booker Prize 2018 Judges Announced

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The judges of the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, have been announced.

The panel will be chaired by the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah and consists of: crime writer Val McDermid; cultural critic Leo Robson; feminist writer and critic Jacqueline Rose; and artist and graphic novelist Leanne Shapton.

Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, says:

‘This year’s judging panel is not only stellar in its distinction, its members have a stunningly broad range of tastes and enthusiasms too. They are all long-standing champions of creative work who will be open to any excellent novel that may come their way, regardless of genre or geography.’

The judging panel will be looking for the best novel of the year, selected from entries published in the UK between 1 October 2017 and 30 September 2018.

The 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction winner was Lincoln in the Bardo by American author George Saunders, published by Bloomsbury. In the week following the winner announcement, sales of Lincoln in the Bardo increased by 1227%.

The ‘Man Booker Dozen’ of 12 or 13 books will be announced in July 2018 and the shortlist of six books in September 2018. The winner of the £50,000 prize will be announced on 16 October 2018 at an awards ceremony at London’s Guildhall, broadcast live by the BBC.

This year, the Man Booker Prize will be celebrating 50 years of the finest fiction with year-long global anniversary celebrations. The flagship event, run in partnership with Southbank Centre, the UK’s largest arts centre, is the unmissable Man Booker 50 Festival from 6 to 8 July 2018. Read more here.

The Man Booker Prize is sponsored by Man Group, an active investment management firm.

Via: http://themanbookerprize.com/fiction/news/2018-man-booker-prize-judges-announced

How Important Is The First Draft To Your Novel

The First Draft - Sandra Scofield

We’re an odd lot, novelists. Obsessive. Why else does someone launch a project that consumes so much time and holds out such a wavering promise of reward? I wrote my first three novels in deep night—the only time I had—and I used to put things away (in a dish bucket, set against the kitchen wall) in a tired heave of sadness, as if I might never pick them up again, as if my fledgling world might never be real. And of course it never was, because that’s a large part of the siren call of the novel: Come hither and create your own world. Put what you know and believe and want into story. Defy the randomness of real life; make meaning. This is a long-haul project and it is so much a part of who you are, you can’t imagine not doing it, not even if it takes years.

Maybe you, like me, write in your hidey-hole and people who know you have no idea how much you’ve taken on. Maybe you’ve found a workshop or a graduate program to help you in your endeavor. Either way, you must know by now that you have a world of figuring out to do.

Just know this: You are uniquely you, and the novel you write is one nobody else can.

I’ve written seven novels. That doesn’t count the first one; I spent years, only to discover when it was done that I was sick of it. (I had learned a lot, though.) It doesn’t count the one I lost. (I thought I stored it in the linen closet, but it wasn’t there when I searched for it.) It doesn’t count drafts, that’s for sure. It doesn’t count false starts (a box of them), or the ones I’ve been writing in my head for a decade while I tell myself I’m done with novels.

I’ve read shelves and shelves of novels. Hundreds of reviews. (I’ve written them, too.) Stacks of criticism. Biographies and memoirs of writers. But what matters to the present subject is this: I have immersed myself in the struggles of at least 200 aspiring novelists, many in one-week workshops in summer writing festivals over 20-plus years, and others in semester-long or year-long mentorships. I immerse myself in outlines and drafts. These writers have put themselves out there in a scary, exciting way. It has been my privilege to help them find new insights and fresh resolve. There is among aspiring writers an incredible range of interests, backgrounds, sense of story, and confidence, but there are many things they have in common. They are readers. They are intrigued by human nature. They are dogged.

One day it dawned on me that every summer, every semester, I have reinvented the wheel. Now, going through my teaching materials, I see that, however I may have recast notes, talks, exercises, and guidelines, there are consistent themes. I want to share what I have learned in my writing and teaching life, with special gratitude for the generosity of so many writers over so many years.

You can find many books to help you produce the first draft of a novel, especially if you subscribe to a popular theory of story much loved by screenwriters. Their strategy of structuring with acts, journeys, plot points, and arcs seems to be ratified by the success of many commercial movies, but is less helpful in developing deep story. If you want to review the basics of screenplay structure, you should read Syd Field, who popularized the model 30 years ago.

My advice is short and simple.

You should feel driven by a story you want to tell, even if you don’t know every nuance of it.

You must be able to live with the ambiguity of the enterprise.

You must have a commitment to a schedule of writing.

 

No one can teach you how to write a perfect first draft.

If you can say, Yes, I’m up to that, and you are just beginning, you may do best by ignoring instruction, at least until your dream is on the page. Free from rules, you may discover you have something in you nobody else has thought of. What rules did Markus Zusak ignore, writing The Book Thief, with Death as the narrator? Or Kate Atkinson, with the dazzle of her innovative Life After Life, in which her characters live more than one life? Amor Towles painted 30 years of Russian history in the confines of a single setting, a hotel, in A Gentleman in Moscow.

However much you think you know your story, however much you love it, allow yourself the freedom of discovery. Think of yourself as solving a mystery. What if? Why? Be wary of judging your work too soon. Sticking with a novel means going forward, not round and round. I say that even though I myself am a slow, deliberate writer at the sentence level. I don’t pour out pages; I feel as if every line tells me something about what the next line has to be. But I also don’t worry over the pages I’ve already written until I have a substantial draft. I learned early on that I could end up trying to perfect passages that don’t belong in the novel at all. Or I could lose my urgency to discover what next. I learned to jump ahead when I felt stymied. I started two of my novels in the middle.

Keep in mind that a first draft may be a kind of fishing expedition, a mess of a manuscript. You may not be ready to leap to revising. “First draft” should be thought of as a canopy off writing, holding however many drafts it takes to get you to the place where you feel you have grasped the story and put it on the page. You have to know how it ends. You have to know what it means.

The “first draft” of my first published novel was 1,084 pages long. It took about 14 months to write. (Remember, those were typewriter days.) I wrote ferociously and joyously. Then I had to figure out how to define reasonable parameters for the novel, and when I cut it, I discovered a huge imbalance between what I had said the most about and what I’d skimmed over. I made a painstaking outline by hand, on lined paper. There were no word processors. I had to start over with fresh paper in a typewriter. That was what it meant to revise. (I kept the boxes that held that draft in the disused cabinets over the refrigerator for many years, until they were archived. And I looked at them from time to time, a reminder of what I did, what I can do.)

When I wrote what I thought was the finished manuscript of More Than Allies, my perspicacious agent told me she liked a minor character in the story the best of all—and that character became one of the two main characters in a total rewrite. I learned to stay fluid, patient, open, and determined. Every stage has its hurdles—and its rewards.

 

Have fun finding your way.

You might want to toss a chapter and start over. Fine. You might want to try out a different point of view. You could discover your heavy drama is a comedy after all. You might realize you need a lot more background (setting, history) built into the story (a common concern); or you might realize that your research is clogging the manuscript’s arteries. Insight comes when you are immersed in the story, and you then have to decide whether to go back or keep going. I’m inclined to say keep going but make lots of notes about your prospective changes. You have to tell yourself that the most important thing is to get enough story down that you have something to work with; you will know more with every page you write; you can change things in the next draft.

Once you have that first full draft, you are on a different plane of writing. You’ve done a lot of stumbling and fretting, but you’ve figured out a story and you have this product, written out from beginning to end. Congratulations. Now you are ready for the next step. Unless you can do it in one go. There are writers who don’t revise full drafts, but I think that for them revising is a stream of higher consciousness.

It is instructive and fascinating to read about Gustave Flaubert’s writing; he was a man in agony, start to finish. He wrote letters to his friends saying that he hated what he was writing, that he had spent days on a paragraph, and so on. It seems clear to me that he had a very strong sense of his story from the beginning (I’m thinking of Madame Bovary), but achieving what he had in mind was incredibly demanding because his standards were so high. He spent five years writing the novel, his first. He wrote expansively, then cut, as he progressed.

When he got to the end of his “first draft,” which was the complete novel, he had performed surgery, acrobatics, diplomacy, psychology, and artistry on every page. And he had written the first modern novel.

John Steinbeck wrote a journal about how he wrote The Grapes of Wrath. It’s called Working Days and you can see why: He wrote five days a week, all day, from June to October 1938, about 2,000 words a day. He griped and grumbled, full of self-doubt and self-pity, but he had his head down and his pencil on the paper (his wife was his typist). I think he, like Flaubert, could do a one-draft wonder because every sentence was produced from deep thought. He was driven by an urgency about his subject, and he had done a lot of research. He didn’t start writing from scratch by any means.

Bernard Malamud, on the other hand, said when asked how many drafts he typically wrote, “Many more than I call three.”

 

Fast is fast, but is it good?

So many will say, Just get it down—work intuitively and quickly. I can’t write fast, so I can’t evaluate this approach. Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life), famous for encouraging unselfconscious, uncritical first drafts, has made it clear that she also does a lot of restructuring and revising later on. You have to find your own way. If you have had the story in your mind for a long time, your first draft might feel like you are pouring it onto the page. If the story feels like a mystery you want to solve, it will probably go more slowly. The writer Ann Patchett (Bel Canto), whose novels are marvelously varied, has said that she likes to think things through pretty thoroughly before she starts writing, whereas her friend, the novelist Elizabeth McCracken (TheGiant’s House: A Romance), doesn’t think a thing of changing names, histories, and plotlines as she writes. Think of the first draft as close to the chest: It’s yours alone.

What I do know is that, whether you crawl through your draft or you write it out as fast as you can type, you have to have the story on the page, start to finish, before you can evaluate it. It’s important to stay open to surprises and unbothered by dead ends. This isn’t the time to make contracts with yourself, like so many pages a day or the first draft by Christmas. Dedicated time is the one thing you do have to promise yourself. A lot will change in the writing. Later, you will come back to the same questions, the same advice, the same exercises, and find you have gone somewhere altogether different from where you were headed. That’s just fine. That’s writing. The real book might appear in the margins of your draft. You can’t revise what you haven’t written down.

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From The Last Draft, by Sandra Scofield, courtesy Penguin Press. Copyright 2017, Sandra Scofield.  Via: http://lithub.com/how-important-is-the-first-draft-to-your-novel/