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Picturing a World


Writer’s tip: This month, my library book club is reading George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo. (And, yes, it deserved to win the Man Booker Award!) To prepare for our meeting, I went poking on the internet and found a profoundly interesting interview with Saunders, which among many other insights, offers a gem to writers:

[T]here’s never really an unworkable problem in prose, if we abide. I was writing a story called “The Barber’s Unhappiness,” which at one point just locked right up. I kept writing the same scene over and over …. And it finally occurred to me that my feelings toward that character … were static. I’d already decided what he was. The story didn’t like that and … refused to be pulled along. So I started looking closer at the existing prose, asking myself if I could find any place to humanize the guy. And, seeing it that way, I found a few clunky places, where the prose was a little awkward and unformed, and by coming back to these, found out a few new things about him, things that made it possible to feel for him. The story opened up again, and I finished it. This is a very strange thing in writing—when the prose goes bad or vague or tepid, the story is concealing a treasure, sort of saying, “Dig here!

Abide. Trust. Go as slow as you need to. Such advice might not work for churning out commercial fiction to a deadline; but for writers who love stories as a means of exploration and expression, how reassuring and wise!

Via imagejournal.org
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