The Novelist’s Handbook: Not just for writers

“…The world’s best contemporary writers – from Michael Chabon and Claire Messud to Jonathan Lethem and Amy Tan – engage in a wide-ranging, insightful, and oft-surprising roundtable discussion on the art of writing fiction.”

The Secret Miracle (The Novelist’s Handbook) edited by Daniel Alarcon is a master class in the art of writing. Contemporary novelists are asked questions and their answers rumble in from many directions. Q: Do you research? A: Yes, Never, Always, Why do you ask? Q: Are you influenced by other writers? A: Yes, Never, Always, I hope so, I don’t allow it. Q: Do you write on schedule? A: Impossible, Imperative.

The questions are more insightful than the examples above, but emphasis is on the variability of the answers… ohh, so much personality in the answers! There is a wide range of behavior revealed by these crafters of fiction that applies to many endeavors. In their own words about their own work which is working with words… this is an examination of process by people well-suited to the task.

Writing is a quest of sorts and this book is a compendium of veterans’ analysis. These are ruminators and wordsmiths so you can pop open the book at any page and fall into their thicket of thought.

This extended dialog captures the elusive movement of plot through the action of imaginary characters written by real people. How does a writer make people understand Scarlett O’Hara, or Scout, or My Friend Flicka? The chronosynclastic infundibulum? As a lifelong binge reader I have a few questions of my own:  How does a writer know that the book is finished? When does a writer decide to do a sequel, or a series? Typing or longhand?  Can your own writing make you laugh or cry?

Ethics and craft are discussed but the core topic is a spectacularly indescribable endeavor: how do writers think up stuff?

This book was given to me by mystery writer Darlene Cox, friend and mentor.


COMMENTARY by indie author-publisher Kathleen K.

 I saw a couple bickering on a beach access road while the guy in the tow truck waited for them to stfu and let him get to work hooking up the car so he could finish the call and go home to….?  From that random scenario I wrote “The Lent Hand (Adventures in Beach Town Towing)”.

 I heard Bill Maher call Bill Clinton “stoner with a boner” which blossomed into potcentric sexotic fictional memoirs considered to be memorable sexual escapades.

 Amidst the malaprops and eggcorns in online comments, I saw the phrase “post-dramatic stress disorder” and Joody burst into being.

Storytelling isn’t anything new to humans, it’s bedrock to our culture. Parables and PowerPoint presentations are deliberate acts of thought-transference toward an audience. It doesn’t always work but, when it does, it lights up those neurotransmitters in the brain and connects all the dots, crazy like a pinball careening around the bumpers and ramps to touch the target, tote the points, then flit away.


#readforfun #KathleenK #thicketofthought

Tagged ,

Greetings from Kathleen K. I am interested in your comments. Thanks for taking the time.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: