Writing the Midwest: On making every word count


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“Writing the Midwest” is a recurring series featuring writing advice from today’s most prolific authors. Whether it’s dealing with writer’s block, knowing when a piece is finished, or how and where to find inspiration, we’re delighted to present to you the very best guidance to help you and your writing. You can find links to the authors’ full interviews below.

On making every word count:

Tatiana Ryckman: My reaction when I see a very thick book is generally, “This must not have been well-edited.” Naturally there are many times when I’m wrong, and I am glad to be. Yet there’s something really wonderful about letting a single moment stand in for significantly more. One can dip into that world and emerge slightly different. There’s something poetic about it—as in poets do this all the time. And I like making words work a little harder, to earn their keep.

Carol Smallwood: Read closely and be curious about word choice. I remember in the second grade the wonder of words came to me when the reading book had the word “suddenly” after all the one-syllable words. It had power, mystery, was grown up, and I couldn’t believe words could have such musical magic.

Samrat Upadhyay: I like tight and lean—and sometimes mean—prose. The expansiveness has more to do with how you are looking (the vision) than what you are looking with (the medium). If your focus is narrow, then even when you employ expansive language, the focus will remain narrow. I do believe that language can empower us to become far-seeing, even though we might be quite nearsighted in real life.


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