Technique & Mad Skills—

How to Become a Better Writer

Have you ever found yourself thinking something like, “If only Ann Patchett would read the first draft of my manuscript and give me feedback — then I would be a better writer.” A living, in-person mentor who gives you one-on-one attention is wonderful, if you can find one. Having a writer pay close attention to […]

Humility and chutzpah: how to revise.

All of the writers we truly adore have a mix of these two qualities: humility and chutzpah. You know this paradox. You live in it, too. You have to be humble enough to see the truth and write it down honestly. You surrender. You write a story and follow the scenes even though you don’t […]

How to train for your writing marathon.

Writing is about endurance. Especially writing a novel. But unlike a marathon run, a marathon write means you’ll be sitting for hours at your desk. We all know now that sitting is the new smoking. It’ll kill you! When you’re sitting for hours, hunched over, lost in the depths of a fictional world, it’s easy […]

Don’t try to make it symbolic.

I was invited to a Canadian fiction class at McGill University once. This Cake was on the required reading list for the course (!), and the students had all read the book and prepared some questions for my visit. It was a surreal experience. When I wrote the stories, I hoped for readers. But I […]

How to write characters who are different than you.

Two wonderful questions about character came into my inbox recently. After some reflection, I decided to answer them both at once. The answer to these two questions is the same, but the questions approach it from opposite ends. Q: I’m trying to work though SSM and I’m having trouble creating characters in Lesson 3. I […]

A Little Conflict.

Writing conflict is difficult. Scary, even. It demands that you venture past the edge of what feels comfortable. When I write conflict from a comfortable place, it feels like pretending. Because I am pretending. If I feel totally okay while writing it, there’s no real struggle. It doesn’t feel true. Crystal Pite’s talk on conflict […]

Write what you want to read.