Writers on Writing

Clips on Craft

Writers Talk Writing at The Center

Here are a few short clips of authors offering writing tips at The Center for Fiction. For our full archive of videos, please click here


Michael Carroll & Alden Jones: On Process and Structure


"I used to work very hard to try to give classical structure to a story, and I was also always working on novels. And I just got tired of trying to make it fit the shape. The material would not fit...You can't have every story end with Oedipus cutting out his eyes, because it gets old."

— Michael Carroll 


Christian Jungersen & Megan Abbott: On the Usage of Crime in Fiction


“[Crime] is really there to put characters under pressure. Because I really write from character, and it's a way of tearing back the curtain and seeing what's really going on...all of the mysteries and strangeness of the family [in my book] become revealed because of this high pressure, this intensity of everyone being pushed to the edge. [To call it a 'device'] would be to diminish it. I would call it a method."

— Megan Abbott



Anita Shreve & Katy Simpson Smith: On Writing What You Don’t Know


“You don't get to learn anything about the world if you just write about things that are familiar. So for me, history is a way to push the boundaries of my own experience. And not just history, but to write about a man's life, or to write about someone who has lost a spouse. Those are all leaps of the imagination that we get to take as writers."

— Katy Simpson Smith


David Ryan: On Using the Difficult Parts of Life 


"I had a health scare a few years ago, and I've just been playing through my head all these alternative ways I could have gone, because I've had a lot of different lives before this one that also tended to go off in strange directions. I've been alive now through things that I probably should've died from over and over again. I wanted to create a composite...of all the different possibilites that aren't my life. And I have to tell you, the stories are so dark in it, but you'd never know it if you knew me, because I'm absolutely thrillled to be alive. I'm thrilled to be alive...[my wedding program] had a poem, a poem that's traveled with me...since back in Boston...that's called...and I can't read the title without getting choked up...So I guess, in a weird way, it's a love letter to my wife...at a certain point, those fragments made sense together. You know, it's the idea that sometimes words aren't gonna work the right way, so you have to sort of jerry-rig them a bit."

— David Ryan



Alix Christie & Sena Jeter Naslund: On Process


AC: "To me, it's an incredibly magical process, writing a book. Because it comes to you. It knocks on the door."


SJN: "Sometimes. Other times, you're chasing it down the alley saying 'come here, scamp.'" 


AC: "Or [you're] just lopping off entire limbs and throwing them out."