From Laura Fraser (Personal Essay: The Monster and the Miracle, Sun., Nov. 22):
Every time I look at my Facebook feed, I find myself
overwhelmed with lists of writers’ tips.
Famous writers, dead ones, teachers, bloggers: everyone has a top-ten
list of things you should do to become a successful writer. You could spend all
the time that you would otherwise actually be writing just reading these
underlying assumption of how-to-write lists —okay, and of this
tip—is that there is some right way to write. If only you would get up at 5:00
a.m., meditate for a few minutes, spray tea tree oil around your computer, read
a few quotes for inspiration, put black-out curtains on the windows, use a
stand-up computer, and play the perfect set list, you would become a successful
These tips reflect, and magnify, the mania for process that
affects aspiring writers. At any book reading or online writers’ group, you can
anticipate these questions: When do you write? What program do you use? How
many pages should it be? How long do you wait to revise? How many drafts do you
need to go through? Where do you find your ideas?
All of these questions assume that
there are mechanical answers to questions about the writing process. They’re
also attempts to avoid the fact that writing is a complicated process–-creative,
mysterious, and personal–-that requires hard work with no shortcuts. There are
no tricks, no fairy dust sprinkled from best-selling authors, that will help
you become a better writer.
only one tip you need about the writing process: Sit down
From Meghan Ward (Edit Yourself: How to Make a Good Manuscript Great, Sun., Nov 15; Social Media Bootcamp, Sun., Nov 22):
I’m reading the Grotto October Book Club’s pick: T. Geronimo Johnson’s Welcome to Braggsville. As a book editor, I’m always on the lookout for my pet peeves: GRE-vocabulary words that are overused, characters described by hair and eye color, “talking heads” (dialogue without action or description), and clichéd metaphors--to name a few. My biggest pet peeve is the line, “Tears streamed down my/his/her cheeks.” (Is there no other way to describe someone crying?)
But Johnson makes none of these errors. Welcome to Braggsville is audacious, funny, tragic, and smart, with a first sentence that goes on for more than a page. (Keep your smartphone nearby so you can google as you read.) The characters are unforgettable, the plot is unpredictable, and the writing is dazzling from the moment “D’aron Little May Davenport” is introduced. Let us all aspire to write with such gusto, and let us start by learning from authors like Johnson, who does it so well.
Note Three: Upcoming Classes