Making novels


By Alicia Anstead | Published: September 30, 2013


AliciaAnstead3Last year, The Writer staff conducted a survey in which we asked readers what area of writing interests them the most. The largest percentage replied: book-length fiction, followed closely by short fiction. Surveys are always tricky, but if I had to put my money on it, I’d bet that writing the “great American novel” (or any country’s “great novel”) is a dream that is alive and well, at least among our readers. That is very exciting, indeed.

As our editorial team assembled this issue on the general theme of “making novels,” we  approached the topic obliquely with interviews featuring practitioners from several genres talking about how and why they write stories. Andre Dubus III, Hannah Moskowitz, Helena Maria Viramontes, Alexander Maksik, Amor Towles and a bevy of emerging authors were only too happy to reveal their habits and how-tos.

As I read and re-read the stories for this month, four themes emerged – each offering a unique and valuable insight into the process of writing fiction, and, frankly, likely to be helpful with nearly any kind of serious writing.

  1. Present your readers with something utterly new to their thinking.
  2. Get out of your normal routine to stir and replenish the creative juices.
  3. Dive into the intimacies of the work: your relationship to the writing, characters and readers.
  4. Visit and re-visit your ideas during times of quiet reflection.

You may not find any of these four thoughts directly stated as the thesis of a piece, but they run through more than half the stories. We would never go so far as to say that if you take these steps, you absolutely will become a writer. But we do know, as do the writers and contributors in this issue, that taking active steps, many of them tried and true, can lead you in the right direction.

We hope this issue of The Writer stimulates your thinking about your work and offers ideas on how to approach and accomplish the mysterious and marvelous work of writing. And about that dream of the “great novel”? Whether it takes a month of writing (such as the NaNoWriMo throughout November – see page 8) or 40 years (page 12) to compose a novel, we believe in the dream. We believe in your dream.

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Alicia Anstead
Editor-in-Chief