Here Comes the Night Time by Arcade Fire. Wooo! 22 Minutes of Arcade Fire being weird and awesome!
I had a thousand people recommend this one to me and finally picked it up a couple of years ago. It’s no-nonsense and highly-relatable, but somehow manages to be encouraging at the same time. Excellent reading for when you’re struggling with your writing.2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
This book is like sitting down to coffee with someone older, wiser and unafraid to speak truths. Lamott gets it—it’s as simple as that. Her chapters on revision and beta readers are particularly useful and I re-read them any time I’m sending out my work for others to read.
3. The Writers Home Companion
My very first book on writing, given to me by my brother when I was 13. (Not that I actually understood anything about writing when I was 13. In fact, I still don’t understand much about writing…) Every essay in here is wonderful but my favorites are a blow-by-blow of how Elizabeth Bishop came up with “One Art” (complete with drafts of first version of the poem) and The Watcher at the Gates by Gail Godwin, about the critic inside all of us.
4. The Elements of Style, Strunk and White
This needs no explanation. If it does, then go out and buy it.
5. The Paris Review: Interviews
My former boss at The Post, David Hoffman, gave me this when he learned I was writing a book. He’s an insightful journalist and editor, as well as a Pulitzer Prize winner, so he could have given me a book of Garfield comics and I’d probably have considered it gospel. But this book earns his—and everyone else’s—praise. I’m certain these are the best interviews of some of the world’s greatest writers. It’s also very quoteable, if you like that sort of thing.
I was reading The Song of Achilles a few months back and was stunned to see that the author, Madeline Miller, worked on the book for 10 years.
Most marriages don’t last that long. But if a story is just right, then for a dedicated author, the time flies by. Case in point: I thought of my book idea six years ago. I’ve worked on it non-stop for four years. And only in the past month did I start seeing the first returns on all that work—in the form of offers of representation from agents.
Why did it take so long?
Revisions. I’ve gone through 5 major drafts of my book and countless mini-drafts. I’m not a writer. I’m a reviser. An editor. A re-writer. A tinkerer. It’s how I bring my books to life. I slap a bunch of stuff down on the page, then begin to mold and massage it, usually over the course of months if not years.
Many times, I felt like I was almost done. But as soon as I’d look more closely, it turned out that, like the song says, I had a ways to go. A character who needed fleshing out. A scene that was too long. A description that was too florid.
So when am I done? When I can’t revise any more, lest I go bat-crazy? When the MS is on its way to the presses? When I’m holding the finished product in my hands?
I don’t know the answer to this. I started querying recently and, after a few weeks, landed an agent. One of our first topics of conversation after I signed with her?