Karen Russell is an American writer whose debut novel, Swamplandia! was nominated and a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. She has received numerous awards and her stories have been featured in The New Yorker, Oxford American and many other literary magazines. Her book of short stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves won the Bard Fiction Prize in 2011. Russell also received a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” in 2013. Her writing style is fresh, and incredibly original, and young writers can learn a lot from her and her work. Read on to learn more.
1. Write diversely
Sometimes, reading different books from the same author feels the same. The protagonist’s voice is the same, as well as the writing style. Russell’s stories and novels, however, are incredibly diverse. Sometimes the protagonists are teenagers, or vampires and even horses! Russell creates these characters so masterfully that their voices are clear, distinct and most of all, memorable. As a writer, you have a powerful tool at your disposal – your imagination. Keep stretching it when you write, in order to develop your ability to write diversely.
2. Focus and progress
Many writers face the fear that they are not writing enough words in a day. They put up an imaginary quota that they feel they have to meet. However, this approach can be completely wrong. As Russell states in an interview for the Daily Beast, “I can produce a lot of words, but volume is not the best metric for me. It’s more a question of, did I write for four or five hours of focused time, when I did not leave my desk, didn’t find some distraction to take me out of the world of the story?” Think about that the next time you feel that you’ve written too little words, and ask yourself whether or not your writing of the day moved your story forward.
3. Follow your writing instinct
There are many books out there filled with formulaic solutions about planning a novel, writing a story, mapping your journey, etc. Russell shares her experiences of this, when she describes the writing process of her short stories. She says, “…a couple of these stories were rigorously mapped out, while drafting others felt more like shaking a Polaroid and waiting for it to come into focus.” If following a writing guide helps you write your story, by all means, use it. However, don’t feel discouraged if you think it’s not working you. Writing is a unique process for every writer, and really, what works for one writer might not help another.
4. Write badly
This point might be confusing, but Russell takes a different and inspirational approach. She states, “…if you can make peace with the fact that you will likely have to throw out 90 percent of your first draft, then you can relax and even almost enjoy ‘writing badly.’” And when you start enjoying the writing process, it gets better and better. Writing badly is also a very common aide for defeating writer’s block – as in; continue writing, even if you think it’s bad, until you start writing good stuff.
5. Get out of your comfort zone
And not just in writing, but reading as well. Russell gives the following advice, “Keep reading outside of your comfort zone. If you’re a fiction junkie, read biography. All writers should read poetry.” And it’s the truth, and not just when it comes to fiction and biography, but to all genres as well. After reading books from the same genre, over and over again, changing the genre will feel like getting a bit of fresh air. Getting out of your comfort zone might not seem so daunting afterwards, especially if that change has a meaningful effect on your thoughts, and gets you to explore new ideas. And ideas are seedlings for new and exciting stories.
Image credit: kellywritershouse on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/photo.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic.
As a 22-year-old art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.