Six Unforgettable Links to Help Writers Survive and Thrive



My favorite links. These articles and interviews kept me going as a writer this year:

1) Our job as writers is to tell stories. Stories are those moments when “a day in the life” departs and becomes “the day of my life.” In this great essay, “Telling Tales, from The Atlantic, Tim O’Brien says, “Above all, a well-imagined story is organized around extraordinary human behaviors and unexpected and startling events, which help illuminate the commonplace and the ordinary.”

2) “How to Write a Great Novel” in The Wall Street Journal gets up close and personal with the writing habits of 17 strong writers. Take-away lesson: I am not crazy. (Or crazier than any other successful writer.) And: revision is integral to the process. “Getting it right” takes effort and multiple tries. You’re not doing something wrong if you’re revising a LOT.

3) It’s not just that I went to grad school with the incredibly talented Kiran Desai (and workshopped both our first published books in our thesis class). It’s that she wrote 1500 words over eight years before she shaped her Booker Prize-winning novel The Inheritance of Loss. This interview with Kiran Desai on the Guardian Books Podcast is inspirational.

Truth be told, I LOVE all the guardian book podcasts. These people make me want to read every book they discuss, because they are true bibliophiles, and show you how to be intellectual without being pretentious.

4) My other favorite interview of the year was this one on Fresh Air with Mary Karr, where she talked about throwing away 500 pages twice before getting to the current draft of her new book, Lit, which is getting rave reviews. Courage, mes amis!

5) My father used to tell this story: A kid says to his mother, “Mom, do we have to go to Europe this summer?” And the mom says, “Shut up and keep swimming.” Sometimes writing a novel can feel this way. How do you make it across the vast waters of the writing process? This terrific, step-by-step list of how to strengthen and edit your manuscript comes from RedRoom’s Ivory Madison, via the generous Michael Pokocky. I LOVE this, including the hour-at-a-time advice.

6) In the writing process, two characters I call the storyteller and the brain often fight for control of your project. The brain doesn’t think much of the storyteller’s whimsical, off-the-cuff approach, but the brain is in no position to drive this vehicle, your book or your life. This article on “Making the Heart and Mind Work Together” was a revelation for me, offering a way to give each its due and keep moving forward.

Happy writing!

Anything you found this year that moved or inspired you and your writing? Let me know!

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  1. I love this snippet on the wikipedia page for David Halberstam, one of my favorite writers of history and sports.

    “Author Howard Bryant in the Acknowledgments section of “Juicing the Game”, his 2005 book about steroids in baseball, said of Halberstam’s assistance…on how to tackle a controversial non-fiction subject:`Think about three or four moments that you believe to be the most important during your time frame. Then think about what the leadership did about it. It doesn’t have to be complicated. What happened, and what did the leaders do about it? That’s your book.”

  2. Thanks, Gretchen. Wikipedia has some interesting stuff about writers. On the Kurt Vonnegut page, they reproduce his six rules for writing a story, which I quite liked. It can be so helpful to have things that seem outrageously complicated, simplified.


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