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Letters to A Young Writer

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Letters To A Young Writer

From the bestselling author of the National Book Award winner Let the Great World Spin comes a lesson in how to be a writer—and so much more than that. Intriguing and inspirational, this book is a call to look outward rather than inward. McCann asks his readers to constantly push the boundaries of experience, to…

Letter to A Young Writer, Redux

“That is the mystery about writing: it comes out of afflictions, out of the gouged times, when the heart is cut open.” ― Edna O’Brien Young writer, has the passion of our calling been robbed from us? It often seems that the crisis of our age is that we are living in stunned submission to…

Be Exhausted When You Finish

You should be exhausted when you finish your story. You should feel as if you have just ripped yourself open and that there is nothing more to give. Doubt yourself. Be convinced that you are a charlatan. Anything good you wrote was entirely accidental. Be sure that you will never be able to do it…

What Should I Read When Working on a Novel?

Let’s file this one under The Anxiety of Influence. What happens if I discover that someone is writing the same thing as me? What happens if I accidentally echo a line? What happens if I get thrown in the wrong direction? What happens if I over-reach? What happens if I fall out of a tree…

Where Should I Write?

Writers write just about everywhere. In ships. On trains. In libraries. On the subway. In the cafe. In writer’s getaways. On top of fridges. In plush offices. In jail cells. In the heart of hollowed-out trees. There’s a good deal of shite talked about writers in their garrets (mea culpa, I sometimes work in a…

Be a Hero, Be a Fool

To be a hero, you have to be willing to play the fool. You should speak the truth, even when – or maybe especially when – it’s unpopular. The proper fool speaks against war and greed and shallow ignorance. He shoots his mouth off. But he shoots it off in the right direction.    …

Tell The Truth

It is your job as a writer to tell the world something it does not already know. This is easily said, but so difficult to do. Seek out those truths that are not self-evident. The more freedom a writer has the more she must become a critic of the place she lives. Depth begins at…

Get Lost, Get Found

“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.” ― Virginia Woolf When we write novels we often have no idea where we are going. We’re operating on the fumes of the language and the sudden feeling that what we are doing has texture and depth. A writer suddenly…

Why Do We Tell Stories?

Why do we tell stories? Why do we have a deep need to tell one another that which is real and invented? Why do we need to lean across the table, or the fireside, or the fabulously intertwined wires of the Internet, and whisper “Listen”? We tell stories because we’re somewhat sick of reality and…

Reality and Fiction

At certain points in history it is only the poetic that is capable of dealing with brute reality. The writer arrives at the conjunction of these two forces — reality and fiction — and makes a decision about how to proceed. There she stands, on the edge of two tectonic plates. What she has to…

The Bus Theory

Maybe the best way to gauge the true importance of what you’re doing is The Bus Theory. You wake up in the morning. You get to your workspace. You carve. You chop. You create. And at the end of the workday – be it an hour, or a morning, or the whole livelong day –…

Avoid the Labels

A lot of the time when we talk about writing – and in particular fiction – we talk about the complicated confluence of truth, reality, history, facts and lies. But what is a lie? And how is it shaped? And do we lie in order to tell the proper truth? Let’s talk about the word…

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