From a letter I was writing to an aspiring novelist. WHO ARE THE PRIMARY READERS OF NOVELS? A) Novel readers B) Something else The correct answer is a). This means that those reading THIS novel will expect it to be a novel. They will wish to be surprised, delighted, moved, and informed. They will expect characters that convince and a plot that causes them to want to find out what will happen next. They will want the novel to hold their attention. At the very least. They are giving you their time. You need to take them seriously.
Between yours Chuck Palahniuk’s substack, this is the most encouraged I’ve been in all of my writing life.
Love you so much, Margaret Atwood. To my mind, ORYX AND CRAKE was and is the best dystopian/utopian novel ever written. How come it didn't receive the same attention (or more) as THE HANDMAID'S TALE? Its time will come. Give it some time, and everything you ever wrote will come true.
About ten years ago I wrote you a letter and you were so kind to respond back (we corresponded a few times), recommending Negotiating With the Dead to me along with a signed bookmark. Your words about writing and reading were so encouraging - thank you for your kindness!
Anywhere Margaret Atwood shows up it's going to be a party. Some fun, a few drinks, some argument and something elucidating. So happy to hop on board!
What a god damn DELIGHT to get this from you, direct to my inbox! Thank you. Lots to think on here and I love the idea of tone being the musical key, hadn't thought of it that way before.
So what do I write?
"Words, words, words" - Hamlet Act II scene ii.
If only it were that simple. Too much thought and it's about as inspiring as cold gruel. Too little, and it meanders into incoherency. Some people's brains make the coolest connections, and out pops a weave of layered OMG. I stand in awe of those who are wired this way. They are word shamans and enchanters. (Yes Ms. Atwood, you are one of these, and we love you for it.)
I'll keep a link to this page to remind me of your basic basics. (I am approaching retirement, and always wanted to be a brain surgeon; uh, I mean writer.)
Thank you for the advice! I am writing a novel now and I find that a big part is getting to know the genre and what you call "the musical key". I am a big fan of your work and I am so glad you have a platform here!
Love you Peggy. You make us proud to be Canadians, with no qualifiers.🕊️
This is a big ✅ for Substack as a quality value creation platform. I look forward to learning from your insight. The world desperately needs creative, inspiring and original stories.
Something that happens to be a qualified expertise of yours. Thank you.🙏❤️
Thanks to you for pointing to the important stuff.
And for your wonderful novels which embody all the important stuff.
Thank you for reminding me of the basics. It's so easy to get lost in the details...
My earlier comments have disappeared so here goes again. Thank you for the insight into writing novels. I am a reader of novels and love reading yours. I also thoroughly enjoy Handmaid’s Tale adapted for tv. Usually I am disappointed after reading the book but not in this case. Well done.
I learn so much, and I find so much encouraged when I read an Author's newsletter. I will save this and use it as a reference.
Well, at least you know 2 people who will be reading every installment - you and yourself, lol! I love it! This one was very informative and encouraging. Thank you.
I'm attempting to write a review of a marvelous nonfiction book about Tibet--Journey to the End of the Empire by Scott Ezell (Camphor Press). It strikes me that your wisdom regarding the path toward a good novel applies very well to (at least some) nonfiction--in particular, this one. My review will be easier to write with this edition of your newsletter in hand.
I'm delighted you are writing here. Thank you for your insights.
(I loved your Masterclass, also, by the way.)