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The best preparation I could have had for a life as a novelist was life as a newspaper reporter. At a time when more impressionistic renderings of events were beginning to creep into the news pages, I learned to look always for the telling detail: the neon sign in the club window, the striped towel on the deserted beach. I learned to distinguish between those details that simply existed and those that revealed. Those telling details are the essence of fiction that feels real. The command of those details explains why Charles Dickens, a onetime reporter, has a byline for the ages.
I learned, from decades of writing down their words verbatim in notebooks, how real people talk. I learned that syntax and rhythm were almost as individual as a fingerprint, and that one quotation, precisely transcribed and intentionally untidied, could delineate a character in a way that pages of exposition never could. And I learned to make every word count. All those years of being given 1,200 words, of having the 1,200 pared to 900 at 3 o'clock: it teaches you to make the distinction between what is necessary and what is simply you in love with the sound of your own voice. The most important thing I ever do from an editing perspective is cut. I learned how to do that in newsrooms, where cutting is commonplace, swift, and draconian.
That’s where I learned about writer's block, too. People have writer's block not because they can't write, but because they despair of writing eloquently. That's not the way it works, and one of the best places to learn that is a newspaper, which in its instant obsolescence is infinitely forgiving. Jacques Barzun once wrote: "Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper, not eternal bronze: let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes. No one will rush out and print it as it stands." Journalism is the professional embodiment of that soothing sentiment.
Of course, it is also the professional embodiment of fact-finding, and that, more than anything else, is why the notion of a journalist who is also a novelist perplexes readers. "I could never make it up," one of the very best reporters I've ever known said to me. But that notion of untrammeled invention becomes illusory after a while. If you manage to build characters from the ground up carefully, make them really real, your ability to invent decreases as their verisimilitude grows. Certain people will only behave in certain ways; certain behaviors will only lead to certain other behaviors. The entire range of possible events decreases as characters choose one road, not another. Plot is like a perspective drawing, its possible permutations growing narrower and narrower, until it reaches a fixed point in the distance. That point is the ending. Life is like that. Fiction is like life, at least if it is good. And I know life. I learned it as a newspaper reporter, and now I reflect that education as a novelist. --Anna Quindlen
This book absolutely resonated for me. Such insight into the Mother's feelings and thought processes. Such a realistic description of family dynamics. Such an unspeakable loss. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Literature Advocate
Wow. I borrowed this from the library, and shortly into the first chapter I realized I had read it already. Read morePublished 8 days ago by darcard
Super, super book. Not at all the book I thought I was reading. When the turning point came, I was thrown as much as the character in the book. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Jmagnuso
good book, the only problem is that author has so many people not really involved into culmination of the book; it is hard to remember who is who and why are they therePublished 21 days ago by Amazon Customer
In some ways this was a difficult book for me to read..too close...too hard...but if you ever wanted to know what is really going on inside someone who has lost someone they love... Read morePublished 25 days ago by Android Lady
I felt love, happiness, sadness and worry while reading. Anna Quindlen is sooo good and what she does. I didn't want the book to endPublished 25 days ago by jessica
Beautifully written story that gives an honest account of family, love, and grief. Each character is uniquely interesting, as shown through the eye of the mother. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Dominique Freda
I loved this book. Sad, but well written. I liked this as much as "One True thing."Published 27 days ago by VC
This author has a massive following and like another seasoned Romance author has her particular and familiar formula down pat. Read morePublished 28 days ago by Stori Diva