How do you know if the book you’re writing is going to fly or flop? Try writing the first 80 pages without worrying about the outcome as Meg Wolitzer does. “Eighty pages is enough pages for a writer to feel she’s accomplished something, but it’s not so many pages that, if she decides to put aside the book, she’ll feel as if she’s wasted her life,” she told the Daily Beast for its “How I Write” series. It must work because we loved The Interestings.
To commemorate publication of the 65th anniversary edition of Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style, New Directions has asked ten contemporary writers to “create new exercises in homage to Queneau.” Over at The Rumpus, you can check out Jonathan Lethem’s “Cyberpunk” exercise, as well as one of Queneau’s twenty eight “never before translated” exercises making its English debut in the new edition. Bonus: read our own Mark O’Connell on the “radical claims about the relationship between form and content” in Queneau’s writing.
Want a book blurb from Margaret Atwood? Expect a poem instead. Atwood has retired from the blurbing business and now declines in rhyming verse. “But now I am aging; my brain is all shrunk,/And my adjective store is depleted;/My hair’s getting stringy, I walk as though drunk;/ As a quotester I’m nigh-on defeated.” Pair with our essays on the blurbing blunder: a history of blurbs, blurbs as publicity stunts, and the fundamental question — to blurb or not to blurb?