“Unlike generating article ideas, I find that planning an article is something that can be done through brute intellectual force. Most articles I have written have been planned out in about one to two hours, by literally just sitting down and forcing myself to think through each step of the argument I wish to make. In other words, using my abstract as a starting point, I force myself to think about each of the premises I need to defend, the counterarguments that are likely to be thrown at me, and my responses to them.

My plans are pretty detailed. For a 10,000 word article, I’ll usually scribble out anywhere between 4 and 10 A4 pages-worth of a plan. I do this mainly because I like the actual writing process to be as mechanical and methodical as possible. Simply a question of filling in the details and smoothing out the edges of the plan.”

From: How I Write for Peer Review

“I have no tips to offer on making your revision more likely to be accepted. The only thing I do — which I suspect everyone does — is to prepare a separate document with a very detailed response to each of the reviewers’ comments. The goal of this is to show how I have taken onboard everything they have said, and where exactly in the paper I address the point”

From: How I Write for Peer Review

“you should be able to summarise your paper using a fill-in-the-blanks sentence: “Although….Nevertheless…Because”. The first part is a statement of the contrary point(s) of view (the ones you will be opposing in your article); the second part is a statement of your main conclusion(s); and the third part is a list of the reasons, evidence and argumentation you will use to support your conclusion(s). Of course, I will rarely actually write the abstract out in this exact format. But I will use it to structure how I think about the abstract. In essence, I think that if I can’t summarise my paper using the instant thesis generator, I probably don’t have an idea worth pursuing in any more detail. It may need some further percolation.”

From: How I Write for Peer Review

“For a few (many) years I was looking for a place to be—unsettled, wandering years. Whenever I’d find myself in a new city, I’d give myself a task: to gather three pieces of ephemera, which I could then use, at some later point in the day, to make a collage. This ephemera was usually paper. This was often simply for ease of transport. I was traveling, I couldn’t load my bag with, say, bits of rusting metal (something that always still grab my attention, and that I will still gather, when I’m closer to home).”

From: Finding, Hiding, Hoarding: On Making Art From Trash


Your first novels seem to be primarily character studies and the later books are more concerned with themes.


I think you’re right. You look at people and realize they’re all part of some theme whether they like it or not. And all you have to do is perceive the theme and you can fit all kinds of people into the pattern. I used to not be able to see so much at once. I think I had a very narrow vision. I had a very narrow life and so I began with character and with one particular situation: like having an illegitimate baby or having to go where your husband’s job is. Now that seems to me very restricting. Too particular. On the other hand, if you lose a sense of particularity, then your writing becomes very boring. It’s a struggle to keep the balance between the two now.”

From: Margaret Drabble, The Art of Fiction No. 70

“There is a profound connection between photography and writing for me, a connection I have built for myself across many channels: I make books that set my photographs and my writing side by side, I write photography criticism, I embed descriptions of photographs in my fiction, and I’m even interested in photographers who are also writers (Evans, Ghirri), or writers who are also photographers (Campany). Because of these many connections, my approach to photography and to writing, which were rather far apart to begin with, have in recent years begun to sort of merge.”

From: Fernweh: An Interview with Teju Cole

“As he chose his subjects, Blumenberg followed careful selection criteria. The stories had to be short parables, myths, or aphorisms. They had to contain the germ of philosophical argument without quite articulating it, like metaphors with vivid vehicles but ambiguous tenors. Scholars before him would have dismissed these stories as mere illustrations, but Blumenberg claimed that they are pivotal to philosophical thinking. Indeed, they constitute the hinges on which our rational edifices rest. Through the logic of metaphor, such parables buttress otherwise shaky or implausible narratives about the world and one’s own self. They assert ties between different realms of knowledge and experience that otherwise seem threateningly disconnected. Their vividness manages to convince us when rationality fails. Indeed, it might even distract us from the scandal of its failure.”

From: The Myths of Enlightenment

“The notes that Jemisin jotted down after her dream went into a folder on her computer where she stores “snippets, ideas, random thoughts.” Some are drawn from her reading of nonfiction: Jared Diamond’s “Collapse,” Charles Mann’s “1491,” Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us.” Eventually, she told me, “this fragment pairs up with that fragment, and they form a Voltron, and become a story.””

From: N. K. Jemisin’s Dream Worlds

“Jemisin’s writing process often begins with dreams: imagery vivid enough to hang on into wakefulness. She does not so much mine them for insight as treat them as portals to hidden worlds. Her tendency is to interrogate what she sees with if/then questions, until her field of vision widens enough for her to glimpse a landscape that can hold a narrative. The inspiration for her début novel, “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” (2010), was a dream vision of two gods. One had dark-as-night hair that contained a starry cosmos of infinite depth; the other, in a child’s body, manipulated planets like toys. From these images, Jemisin spun out a four-hundred-page story about an empire that enslaves its deities.”

From: N. K. Jemisin’s Dream Worlds