When I’m revising a manuscript, I carry a book with me at all times. It bangs around in my bag, its corners wearing soft. It has oily fingerprints from wasabi peas. Friends do not ask to borrow it. I panic when it goes missing. Rumpled and stained, it’s like a beloved teddy bear.
- Touchstone texts have no business near first drafts. For all the reasons mentioned above.
- If you drift into the voice of the touchstone text author, banish the book from your cache.
- Mix. It. Up. There’s something to be learned from every great book. Don’t be afraid to study a writer whose style diverges from your own. Lately, I’m learning the rewards of a slow-rising character arc from Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist.
For Elegant Prose: Speedboat by Renata Adler; Cathedral by Raymond Carver; Atonement by Ian McEwan; Revenge by Yōko Ogawa
|Yes, that’s a lipliner holding open Tartt’s Secret History. I’m not writing with it, though that would be glamorous. And messy.|