Friday, 1 December 2006

Anne Tyler and writing

The blogosphere has lots of posts about writing and in fiction editor Margo Rabb grabbed the chance to ask Anne Tyler about her work, her approach to her craft, and, in particular, her latest novel, Digging to America. The last sentence in this extract will resonate with many of you:

You have said that you go through a "refilling" stage after finishing a novel - how long does this stage generally last? Once you return to work, how do you start -- by outlining, drawing up character histories, or jumping right into writing?How many hours do you write each day?

I spend about a year between novels. My decision to start a new one is just that, a decision, since I never get inspirations. I'll say, "It's time I stopped lolling about. I'd better think something up." Then for a month or so I'll jot down desperate possibilities. "Maybe I could write about who does such-and -such. Or wait: I think I already did that. Well, then maybe about about that woman I saw in the grocery the other day. What was she up to, exactly? what might her story have been?"

Eventually, one of these possibilities will start flowering in my mind, and I'll manufacture what's initially a very trumped-up,artificial plot. I'll write maybe one long paragraph describing the events, then a page or two breaking the events into chapters, and then reams of pages delving into my characters. After that, I'm ready to begin.

My writing day has grown shorter as I've aged, although it seems to produce the same number of pages. At most I'll spend three or four hours daily, sometimes less. The ironclad rule is that I have to try. I have to walk into my writing room and pick up my pen every weekday morning. If I waited till I felt like writing, I'd never write at all.

You can check out the full interview at

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