Dear Literary Ladies

Should I take time off work to write full time?

Dear Literary Ladies,
Miraculously, I’ve saved a bit of money, and I’m considering taking a few months or a year off of work to write full time. I want to see if I can make a go of it, once and for all. Is this a good idea, or would I be putting too much pressure on myself? 

It might be dangerous for you to have too much time to write. I mean if you took off a year and had nothing else to do but write and weren’t used to doing it all the time then you might get discouraged too easily.

Of course I don’t know. But don’t anyhow say to yourself that you will give yourself so long to find out what you can do—because these things don’t work on time limits. Too much time is as bad as too little.

Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964), from a letter to a friend


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How can I develop a distinctive writing style?

Dear Literary Ladies,
How do I go about developing a distinctive writing style—one that will blow editors away, and that readers everywhere will recognize as my unique voice?

I simply don’t believe in style. The style is you. Oh, you can cultivate a style, I suppose, if you like. But I should say it remains a cultivated style. It remains artificial and imposed, and I don’t think it deceives anyone. A cultivated style would be like a mask. Read More→


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Are women authors held to different standards than men?

Dear Literary Ladies, Do you think women writers are (or should be) judged by different standards than men?

To value praise or stand in awe of blame we must respect the source whence the praise and blame proceed, and I do not respect an inconsistent critic. He says, “If Jane Eyre be the production of a woman, she must be a woman unsexed.’

In that case the book is an unredeemed error and should be unreservedly condemned. Jane Eyre is a woman’s autobiography, by a woman it is professedly written. If it is written as no woman would write, condemn it with spirit and decision—say it is bad, but do not eulogise and then detract. I am reminded of The Economist. The literary critic of that paper praised the book if written by a man, and pronounced it ‘odious’ if the work of a woman. Read More→


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Do you learn anything from reviews of your books?

Dear Literary Ladies,

Is there anything to be gained by reading reviews of one’s books? For most authors, it’s hard to ignore reviews; first of all, one is curious, but also, with google alerts and such, everything’s in your face 24/7. What was your experience with reviews, and did you learn anything of value from them?

Talk of reviews! I subscribed to a clipping bureau and they come in shoals every day. So far I have received sixty-six [reviews of Anne of Green Gables ] of which sixty were kind and flattering beyond my highest expectations; of the remaining six two were a mixture of praise and blame, two were contemptuous and positively harsh. Read More→


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How can I find my unique writing voice?

Dear Literary Ladies,
My desire to be a really good writer exceeds nearly all else. But like a lot of artists, I fear what I want most. It’s like I’m tripping over my own feet. I’m self-conscious and that “trying too hard” style shows up in my writing. How can I get out of my own way and find my unique voice?

The business of writing is a personal problem and must be worked out in an individual way. A great many people ambitious to write, fall by the wayside, but if they are the discourageable kind it is better that they drop out. No beginner knows what [she] has to go through with or [she] would never begin. Read More→


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