word craft



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I am work­ing on a new book—and I am strug­gling. Giv­en the fact that I’ve pub­lished some eighty books, it may sur­prise some that I am strug­gling. Let me sug­gest why.

  1. Every book is a new book, and the suc­cess of one, though pre­sum­ably it gives con­fi­dence to write anoth­er, that is not nec­es­sar­i­ly so. A writer’s con­fi­dence is, at best, frag­ile. A nasty remark on Goodreads can kill a day’s work.
  2. One of the pit­falls of a new book is my contract—if I have one. A con­tract will spec­i­fy the total word count—say six­ty thou­sand words. But there on my screen, the PC is count­ing and it reads “2,465 words.” The psy­cho­log­i­cal ten­den­cy, then, is to write more words than I need. That clogs up my writ­ing, and makes it ver­bose. It feels as if I am writ­ing bad­ly. I am.
  3. I agreed to write such and such a book, with such and such a plot, and I made a good pitch. But a pitch is not a book. There is many a slip between pitch and book.
  4. Reminder: talk as lit­tle about my book as pos­si­ble. It box­es me in. Silence is freedom.
  5. Some­times as I write, I see a pos­si­bil­i­ty for a shift in the sto­ry. But I promised some­thing else. Reminder to self: go with the shift, with what feels right. The one per­son I should talk to is my editor.
  6. Reminder: Beware the book that is focused on place, rather than char­ac­ters. Trav­el books are about places. Fic­tion is about characters.
  7. Reminder: Pro­fes­sion­al writ­ers get paid for their work, and I depend on that income to live. Get it done! rever­ber­ates in my head. The rent is due. That cre­ates anoth­er kind of pres­sure, one that may be real but that does­n’t help my writing.
  8. Reminder: Good writ­ing is re-writ­ing, end­less re-writ­ing. Patience is a key com­po­nent of writing.
  9. Reminder: Nev­er deny your deep­est instincts about your own work.
  10. Reminder: Read good writ­ing by oth­ers. Oth­er writ­ers will show the way.
  11. Reminder: Slow­ly (if not sure­ly) it will get done.

5 thoughts on “Struggling”

  1. Thank you, once again, for your valu­able insights! I’ve read many over the years and your gen­eros­i­ty has helped me to deve­l­ope my craft. I still have a life­time of learn­ing ahead of me, but you, Avi, have made a dif­fer­ence to me as a writer. Many thanks and wish­ing you con­tin­ued Good Luck!

  2. This helps as I’m in the midst of fol­low­ing my instinct to re-write a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of my book. It hurts to cut so many words out, but I know I’ll feel bet­ter once the sto­ry is going in a direc­tion I love, instead of a direc­tion I was forc­ing myself to go in. Thank you!

  3. Avi, you are one of my favorite writ­ers and I rec­om­mend your books to my stu­dents in the library. I can see that each book is a trea­sure that has been puri­fied by the pres­sure and con­stant direc­tion of your state of mind. They are more pre­cious than gold. Thank you for your patience, and hard work!

  4. Ah, this book. Reminder: some­times birthing a book hurts as much as birthing a child. But once the labor has start­ed, things have been set in motion. Pace a lit­tle, suck on a few ice chips, but then bear down and push this book out into the world. 🙂 I hope you’re well. <3


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