XyZy's picture
XyZy from New York City is reading Seveneves and Animal Money March 8, 2017 - 7:21am

Hey all,

Been awhile. Saw this essay and thought of you all, so I thought I'd share:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/04/what-writers-really-do-when-they-write?CMP=share_btn_tw

I know some of you are big Saunders fans, and if you're not, you probably should be. And even if you shouldn't be, it's a good article.

_'s picture
_ March 8, 2017 - 8:45pm

Great article. I swear I've read example #3 from him before somewhere. And I think I learned something on #7.

But there is something wonderful in watching a figure emerge from the stone unsummoned, feeling the presence of something within you, the writer, and also beyond you – something consistent, wilful, and benevolent, that seems to have a plan, which seems to be: to lead you to your own higher ground.

That 'something beyond'- it's something like faith. The writer has to have faith when they begin that there will be an ending they cannot see.

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading A Million Little Fibers by Steven McTowelie March 9, 2017 - 5:59pm

Excellent share, thanks. Saunders is a master. One thing I'm struggling with:

"How, then, to proceed? My method is: I imagine a meter mounted in my forehead, with “P” on this side (“Positive”) and “N” on this side (“Negative”). I try to read what I’ve written uninflectedly, the way a first-time reader might (“without hope and without despair”). Where’s the needle? Accept the result without whining. Then edit, so as to move the needle into the “P” zone. Enact a repetitive, obsessive, iterative application of preference: watch the needle, adjust the prose, watch the needle, adjust the prose (rinse, lather, repeat), through (sometimes) hundreds of drafts. Like a cruise ship slowly turning, the story will start to alter course via those thousands of incremental adjustments."

What exactly constitutes positive and negative? Some of my favorite things that I've written are probably "negative" if I needed to categorize them as either/or, but I like them fine the way they are. Reminds me of the general "turn that frown upside down" life advice people bandy about.

_'s picture
_ March 10, 2017 - 8:35am

Hey Nick, the way I understood it was that the positive and negative are the perceived subjective reaction of a first-time reader, not the actual content or tone of the words. Basically, the nag. Like "cotton candy clouds" is a positive image, but my inner nag says, "fuck that corny, cliche crap" (negative). Saunders' metaphor is a kinda long-winded version of the voices I hear in my head. I could be wrong, but that's the way I read it.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal March 9, 2017 - 10:53pm

@Nick

I think maybe it's something like the advice to kill your darlings. Maybe.

Kedzie's picture
Kedzie from the SF Bay Area by way of Chicago is reading The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien April 17, 2017 - 12:07pm

I was just about to post this article, which I discovered only this morning. Thought it wise to scroll down. Thanks for posting it, fantastic piece! 

Rachel Capps's picture
Rachel Capps from Sydney, Australia is reading Fight Club April 21, 2017 - 10:08pm

Fabulous articl, thanks for sharing :)