What does it take to write a book?

There’s something to be said for just sitting there.
By Alicia Anstead | Published: July 20, 2015


AliciaAnstead3What does it take to write a book? Jami Attenberg says you have to have “a lot of faith in yourself.” That’s for sure. But as we were putting together the September 2015 issue, I accumulated a partial list of what else it takes to achieve your work and get that work in front of readers.

My outline looks something like this:

  • Grapple with the blank page.
  • Build your character’s back story.
  • Task risks with language and experiences.
  • Drill into every word.
  • Find a support system.
  • Develop a promotional strategy.
  • Write solid cover letters.
  • Edit, edit, edit.

And finally? The most omnipresent advice from successful writers (this month from Mary Gordon): Get your butt in the chair. Gordon, best known as a novelist but also a powerful teacher, put it this way: “I’m a great believer in just putting your tush in the chair every day and sitting there.”

There’s something to be said for just sitting there. In the midst of the digital era, taking a seat to compose – without checking Facebook and Twitter or any number of compelling blogs and news sites – is the simplest, most effective tool we have as writers.

But when you do take a break, we hope you will enjoy the interviews and stories in this issue. If you’re a poet (and even if you’re not), you will want to read Julie Krug’s cover interview with Major Jackson, a formidable and friendly voice of our times. If you have a combined love for nonfiction and adventure, Megan Kaplon’s story about risk-taker Christopher McDougall is worth reading. Whether you read our magazine cover to cover all at once, or dip into it throughout the month, we are here to support your craft and your success.

That said, a good place to start is with Deborah Joy Corey’s essay about building a workspace on a float in the harbor near where she lives. The imperative for writing space recalls Virginia Woolf and her landmark manifesto “A Room of One’s Own.” But the need to disconnect from the noise has taken a more serious turn in the last few decades. Corey’s essay is a reminder that in addition to a room (a corner, a cave, a café booth, a car parked under a tree) of one’s own, we might also need to reconnect with elements such as Nature to quiet our minds, open our hearts, listen for the story.

Now, take your seat – and get to work.

front_alicia_signature

Alicia Anstead

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

P.S. To read these stories and more, buy the September issue of The Writer at Barnes & Noble and other retailers or download the digital edition now.