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Writing But Not Getting Anywhere?

March 13, 2018

There are some intriguing themes like motherhood, marriage, work, greed, class, sexual violence and abuse of power and position. But above all, if you lap up Manhattan society settings, skilfully drawn, life-like characters and love listening into another couple’s conversation in a restaurant, or enjoy places like airports for people watching, you’ll adore Mrs.

Darkly funny, whip-smart, timely, Mrs by Caitlin Macy is one fabulous novel. You can read our full review here

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Tips for Novelists

Words || Caitlin Macy

Despite the cutting remarks with which many aspiring writers condemn the work of their peers in writing groups, most reserve their harshest critiques for themselves. It can be difficult to finish a novel when the critical voice is turned up to 11. My tips, therefore, are exclusively aimed at quieting that voice.

 

  1. In the words of GK Chesterton: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” Post these words above your desk.
  1. Live by the 80% rule: when you sit down to write in the morning—or at 10pm after the kids are in bed, the dishes are loaded, and the spouse is passed out in front of Sports Center—don’t try to write a page that’s 100% up to your standards. It can be stifling to have perfection in mind. Lower the bar and go for 80%; you can always edit it later.
  1. It’s much easier to edit when you have a complete draft; you will suddenly see what has to be done.
  1. Beware of spending too much time crafting the perfect sentence: instead craft the decent-enough whole-novel; you can always improve it on a sentence to sentence basis once you have that draft in hand—that’s the fun part.
  1. A lot of days (and nights) that seem wasted are useful in the end: you may use paragraphs, passages, entire plotlines later on in the novel or in another novel or story.
  1. If you’re finding it difficult to fill those ten straight hours you set aside to write, go for a bare minimum instead: 45 minutes of uninterrupted focus.
  1. Giving yourself credit for writing a chapter, say, or 1000 words works for some people but can also make it seem that if you don’t get there, you have failed. Instead, try giving yourself credit for showing up: for putting in your 45 minutes or 2 hours or afternoon. It encourages showing up which is, of course, half the battle.
  1. If you feel distracted and have difficulty settling down to write, read. Like browsing cookbooks to get ideas about what to make for supper, reading—not a trashy magazine or even the newspaper but a good piece of fiction—is reliably invigorating.
  1. If your peers are racing ahead of you—publishing stories, selling their manuscripts for giant sums—remind yourself that it’s not a sprint but a marathon. I can’t tell you how many people who were first out of the gate are no longer writing.
  1. Reading the great works of literature can be inspiring but it can also be daunting: how will I ever write Anna Karenina? you ask yourself. An underrated source of inspiration is going to the bookstore and taking note of all the terrible, virtually unreadable books there are for sale between two covers. If they can do it, surely so can you!

Purchase a copy || check out our full review || read a sample chapter


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