The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received

In my first workshop in graduate school, John Yount looked at me across the table after about thirty minutes of class discussion about my story. He said, “Clark, this is draft five of a ten draft story.” My heart sunk–it was a stupendous slice of life story! Probably pure genius!–but he was right of course. One of the characters in the story studied his fingers when he was talking, each knuckle separately. John said, “That moment, when the character is studying his knuckles, that is the only moment I really see these guys. You need to get out of their heads. Concentrate on stuff like this.” Later, in his office, he told me that I was still in the beginning stages. He said I had a lot of work to do but if I worked at it hard, I might get there. He said there were some nice moments in the story but that it didn’t work as a whole. All of this was hard to hear, but it was spot-on, all of it. Thanks John.

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