Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘writing process’

Shop Talk |

"My novel is going nowhere"

You may have said those words once or twice yourself, perhaps? (If not, please leave this blog. Now.) It may comfort you to know that you are not alone in that sentiment: even established writers think so, now and then—and have for decades, if not centuries. To prove it, Michael Hoffman has combed through the letters of Joseph Roth, finding every mention of his novel The Radetzky March, which would become his masterpiece. Here’s a sampling: November 20, 1930 Joseph Roth to Stefan Zweig: “‘The Radetzky March,’ it’ll be called, set in the Dual Monarchy from 1890 to 1914. I’ll […]


Shop Talk |

When procrastination is good for you

Maybe it’s just the time of year—has anyone ever finished a project during the holiday season? Ever? In the history of time? But I’ve been doing some quality procrastination lately. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. On Monday, we talked about Mark Frauenfelder’s suggestion that being creative outside of your field can help you be more creative in your field. Now here are two other posts to make you feel less bad about procrastination—and maybe even make it helpful. Both are from Grub Street’s excellent blog, the Grub Street Daily. First, Katrin Schumann discusses the value of “cross-pollination” […]


Shop Talk |

Is literary monogamy overrated?

The Millions has a wonderful essay by Jeffrey Eugenides on his process of writing his latest novel, The Marriage Plot. It began with what he called “an act of literary adultery”: In the late 90s, during an impasse in the writing of Middlesex, I put the manuscript aside. (I hadn’t fallen out of love, exactly, but I wasn’t sure where the relationship was headed.) Over the following weeks I began flirting with another novel, not a comic epic like Middlesex but a more traditional story about a wealthy family throwing a debutante party. At first, the new novel seemed to […]


Shop Talk |

The Risky Email Test

This is a little revision device I’ve whipped up to try to tell if a paragraph or page or section is too soft or vulnerable, if it needs to be edited out. Or if it’s too autobiographical in a way that could lead to questioning from my grandmother’s bridge club. You know how, after you’ve sent a risky email–maybe to someone you’re desperately in love with, or to your boss, or to a professor to lay into him a little bit when you aren’t really allowed to do that–there’s this feeling you get that maybe you should have waited until […]


Interviews |

Grunge Rock, Nabokov, and the Threat of Nuclear Apocalypse: An Interview with Tyler McMahon

Tyler McMahon’s new novel, How the Mistakes Were Made, is a tragedy set to rock and roll. In this conversation with Caleb Winters, McMahon recalls the paranoia of Cold War America, shares his experiences touring with a band, and reveals how writing can be like church.


Shop Talk |

Write Place, Write Time

Write Place, Write Time offers a peek into different writers’ workspaces. Above, the writing spot of novelist Heidi Durrow. Here’s the ridiculously cool workspace of writer Alan Heathcock (seriously, I can’t believe this exists–read the whole post; I promise it’s worth it): Heathcock writes: My writing studio is a 1967 Roadrunner travel trailer that for most of its life was an Idaho State Police surveillance vehicle, and is now packed with books and trophies and random oddities. Inside, there’s old beautiful wood paneling, which smells like woods and feels like wood and feels cozy and connects me with reality. […] […]


Shop Talk |

The Slow Cookers

I’m now in year 5 of working on my (first) novel, which seems like a long time to me. But according to everyone I’ve heard, 5-7 years is average for a first novel. For some, though, novelists just work Too Damn Slow. At least, that’s what Dwight Garner suggested in a recent essay in the New York Times: There have always been prolific writers as well as slow-moving, blocked, gin-addled or silent ones. It’s worth suggesting, though, that something more meaningful may be going on here; these long spans between books may indicate a desalinating tidal change in the place […]




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