Usually, with a novel, you start with no idea what to do because your job is to create convincing characters and then they just run around getting crazy. The problem with writing a memoir, obviously, is you can’t do that because you sort of know what’s going to happen. Because you’re the character.
Ask any writer about the rules he’s heard throughout the years, and he will be able to recite a litany as deeply embedded as the Lord’s Prayer. Show, don’t tell. Write what you know. The first sentence is key. The last sentence is key. All writing is rewriting. No adverbs. No one aside from you finds your dreams interesting. You should never write in the second person.
The most indelible writing exercise I was ever taught was to copy, either by typing or by hand, a favorite piece of prose.
I don’t know who God is, or any of that. People concerned with those questions turn up in my stories, but I can’t explain why they do. Sometimes I wish they wouldn’t.
When terrible things happen in a Chekhov story, it isn’t because one of the characters is a bad seed. It is often because of the characters’ inability to extend to each other the kind of compassion that would force them outside of their own concerns.
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