Posts Tagged ‘Art of Fiction’

…you owe it to your readers to set yourself the most difficult challenge that you have some hope of being equal to. With every book, you have to dig as deep as possible and reach as far as possible. And if you do this, and you succeed in producing a reasonably good book, it means that the next time you try to write a book, you’re going to have to dig even deeper and reach even farther, or else, again, it won’t be worth writing.

Jonathan Franzen, from Farther Away

(and see James Santel’s excellent review of Farther Away)


Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project has worked through Flannery O’Connor‘s letters and found eight wonderful little gems of advice on writing fiction.Click here.  My favorite:

I know that the writer does call up the general and maybe the essential through the particular, but this general and essential is still deeply embedded in mystery. It is not answerable to any of our formulas.

Literary analysis is a wonderful thing, but if the story is a great story it will always ultimately evade analysis. And it will not be replicable by formula.

Excellent comments, too, after the post. Recommended.

…  I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write…  You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop …  When you stop you are as empty as when you have made love... Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again…  —Paris Review

Astrid Lorange on Gertrude Stein and “the poetics of spanking.”

Luc Sante waxes nostalgic over life in New York in the Seventies: “New York City was the only imaginable home, the only place that posted no outer limit on appearance or behavior.”

John Steinbeck on fiction.

David Foster Wallace at microphone

If you… succumb to the idea that the audience is too stupid, then there are two pitfalls… the avant-garde pitfall, where you have the idea that you’re writing for other writers… (or) crass, cynical, commercial pieces… done in a formulaic way…

…these two sides both come out of the same thing… contempt for the reader… The project that’s worth trying is to do stuff that has some of the richness… of avant-garde literary stuff, stuff that makes the reader confront things rather than ignore them, but to do that… in a way that it’s also pleasurable to read.

— from Salon

Iris Murdoch“…make a detailed plan before you write the first sentence…  I have a general scheme and lots of notes. Every chapter is planned. Every conversation is planned. This is, of course, a primary stage, and very frightening because you’ve committed yourself at this point… The second stage is that one should sit quietly and let the thing invent itself. One piece of imagination leads to another…  The deep things that the work is about declare themselves and connect…. One should be patient and extend this period as far as possible…”

— from the Paris Review Interview

(emphasis added)

Vonnegut at typewriter“So it goes.” — KV

Thinking about Kurt Vonnegut now, some thirty-five years since I first read him, what strikes me most is the man’s fundamental decency.  This quality is sadly, all too rare in writers, who often seem to be positively writhing with their hustles.  And then, of course, there is Vonnegut’s humor, his wisdom– and the strange wandering genius of his books.

Want to know more? See:

You never know what you’re really doing, do you? Like a spider, you are in the middle of your own web.

James Salter, from the Paris Review


“When I’m traveling, and not alone at my desk, after a while I get depressed. I’m happy when I’m alone in a room and inventing. More than a commitment to the art or to the craft, which I am devoted to, it is a commitment to being alone in a room. I continue to have this ritual, believing that what I am doing now will one day be published, legitimizing my daydreams. I need solitary hours at a desk with good paper and a fountain pen like some people need a pill for their health. ”

–Orhan Pamuk

(from The Art of Fiction, No. 187)