Writing the Midwest: On patience and taking your time


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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 patience and taking your time:

Ian Stoner: I’m prone to tinker, and eventually the tinkering gets so trivial that I start to resent the story, at which point I put the draft in a drawer. The next summer I open the drawer, read the story, and if I like it I try sending it out. This doesn’t happen often. Usually, after a year away I can see that the piece needs fundamental rewriting, which I do. And then I tinker, turn resentful, put it back in the drawer for another year, and so on.

Jamel Brinkley: I write first drafts slowly, asking lots of questions, nitpicking my way from sentence to sentence, but I try not to think too much about issues of craft or the kinds of things that usually come up in workshops. If I’m not under pressure from a deadline, when I’m done with a draft I let it sit for a while. When I look at it again, I start thinking more deliberately about craft: scene, point of view, dialogue, etc. I find Robert Boswell’s transitional drafts method helpful. Finally, I try to make sure I haven’t “crafted” the life out of the story. If I feel stuck, then I have trusted readers I can turn to.

Terese Mailhot: You have to give it time, because sometimes it feels finished for now, and then you wait a few months, or a year, and you can go back and see if you’re right. That’s kind of how I work.


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