Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How to know when you're writing something real

Matthew Thomas, a former high school English teacher, who reportedly sold his first novel, We Are Not Ourselves, for more than $1 million said something interesting in the September 7, 2014 New York Times Book Review.

"I learned not to look away at the moment when I should be paying the most attention. The closer I got to the heart of a scene, to the really difficult material to write, the emotionally challenging stuff or the exchange in which the conflict is made most explicit, the more I'd look for a way out of writing it. This was out of fear, obviously, because you don't want to run up against your limitations in craft, intelligence or heart. It's much easier to duck the really vital material, but it kills what you're writing to do so, kills it instantly."

As one who has avoided writing the emotionally challenging or conflict-laden, I know whereof Thomas speaks too well. It also explains why so many memoirs and amateur novels are so unsatisfying. The author has ducked and by doing so killed the work.

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