Let me set the scene: You’re sitting at home, perhaps in your office or at your kitchen table, maybe sipping some coffee or tea. You’d like to start writing your novel … but instead you’re staring at the cursor on your laptop screen as it blinks back at you. You’re suddenly possessed of a singular, creeping dread: Now what?
If you’ve ever faced the blank page before (and who hasn’t?), you know how frightening, downtrodden, and lonely this experience can be. This week’s Friday Read is a book about combating those feelings and spinning them into pure literary gold—in the form of a published novel that fills you with pride.
Author in Progress features more than 50 essays from best-selling novelists, editors, agents, and contributors from the Writer Unboxed community, led by co-founder Therese Walsh. Every page is threaded with wisdom from the likes of M.J. Rose, Brunonia Barry, David Corbett, Donald Maass, Jane Friedman, Barbara O’Neal, and so many more.
From tackling that first draft to seeking critique, and from revising to publication and beyond, Author in Progress is filled with practical, candid essays to help you reach the next run on the publishing ladder. Here’s just a small sampling of the excellent advice you’ll find:
“Unboxed writers are free, yes, but they are also smart. They know the rules but also know themselves. They please readers but aren’t happy if they’re not pleasing themselves first.” —Donald Maass, in his essay “Being Unboxed”
“Your reader is biologically wired to respond to your protagonist’s inner struggle. When we’re lost in a story, our brains sync with the protagonist’s and her struggle becomes our struggle. This isn’t a metaphor—functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) reveals that when a story engages us, we experience what the protagonist is going through as if it were happening to us—because it is.” —Lisa Cron, from her essay “Story First, Plot Second”
“If you’re not a good human, it really doesn’t matter how good you are at writing, because the foundation below you is quicksand. Good writers are, by necessity, good humans. Cutting yourself off from the world outside won’t help. An alternative exists. You can read real people and then write them—read their dialogue, read their defining attributes, read the direction of their relational conflict. Become a student of the masses.” —Lancelot Schaubert, from his essay “Reading People (and Writing Them, Too)”
“Discovering your community is easier than you might think. And although I once feared writers would be distant and judgmental, I’ve found them—almost without exception—to be kind, warm, and inclusive. Starting your search might be as simple as inviting an old friend to a conference. Or checking your local library and bookshops for writing clubs, groups, or classes. Or, easier still, searching the Internet.” —Vaughn Roycroft, from his essay “Community Comfort”
“Think of yourself as a writer first and foremost, without boxing yourself into a category. This type of mass categorization—as children’s author, novelist, nonfiction writer, and so on—will inevitably restrict your options, should cycles change.” —Sophie Masson, from her essay “Writer as Phoenix”
“Keep stretching yourself. Reach for that next rung and then the next. The only limits to this ladder are those you set for yourself, so don’t set any at all.” —Therese Walsh, from her essay “Write On”
Author in Progress is available now!