Advice for novelists

I haven’t read Absurdistan, but author Gary Shteyngart’s advice for novelists has me thinking I should make the time:

Have a Daily Writing Schedule
“Take a lot of Xanax in the morning to really calm the hell down. Try to wake up no later than 11. Work from 11:30 to 4:30, then go see the shrink, then meet some friends for drinks. Find a good bar where everyone knows your name and you can get a nice buyback. Try to relax. This is the major problem. Writing is both boring and stressful, it’s the worst combination. Sometimes I go to the gym, but it’s very hard to lift things there, because they’re so heavy.

Personally, I don’t take Xanax and I usually get up well before 11 a.m., but the idea of maintaining a regular writing schedule is a good one. And that remark about all the heavy stuff at gyms — I’ve noticed that, too.

A Novelist’s Salary
For the most part I would urge writers to come from very wealthy families. Make sure you’ve got that trust fund coming! Other than that — teach. Also write for magazines that pay a lot of money, if they’re still around. Playboy pays $5-7 a word. For $7 a word, I’ll do anything. I’ll write’Mein Kampf: The Sequel.

I neglected to nail down the trust fund part. Damn.

The Literary Feud: Still Worthwhile?
Everyone’s so nice in writing. Even the assholes are nicer than the assholes you would find in Hollywood or some other industry. Big nerds. Nervous people. Always at the margins at their high schools. You don’t want to pick a fight with them! It’s like challenging an aardvark to a duel. But yes, I do miss the feuds. The feuds were important back then, because people listened. Norman Mailer could get people to watch him on TV if he did one of the schmucky things he would regularly do. Nowadays, who cares? So I throw a glass of brandy in John Updike’s face, what’s going to happen with that? Nobody cares.

I dunno about that. Plenty of people took notice when Stanley Crouch got all gangsta on Dale Peck for that blunderbuss review of Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome. But it is true that with both Norman Mailer and William F. Buckley dead and Gore Vidal keeping mostly to home, literary feuds don’t have the same snap.

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3 thoughts on “Advice for novelists

  1. mikeb302000 says:

    Great advice which I’ll do my best to heed. I especially like that part about coming from a very wealthy family, oops too late for that. Oh well.

  2. geoff says:

    I liked Absurdistan for the most part, but it relies heavily on A Confederacy of Dunces. One note to writers he omits but practices: steal other writers’ material and ideas!

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