Margaret Atwood is an author of more than 40 books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her most prominent work, to name a few, include: “The Blind Assassin”, “Oryx and Crake”, “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Alias Grace”.
1. When you are happy with your manuscript, it’s time for you to hand it over to your trusted reader — however, Margaret advises against handing it over to a spouse or gatekeepers in the publishing industry:
− The best-trusted readers are non-writers.
− After they finish reading, ask them how quickly they read it.
− Try to have more than one trusted reader so that you can find consensus or common thread in their responses.
2. Reading your manuscript aloud will help you catch awkward patches and infelicities, which your eye wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.
3. For the first stages of editing, Margaret suggests going through the text with a ruler of your printed manuscript. This way, you will be able to read each line slowly and in isolation, and spot errors easier. A reader will always notice those small mistakes if you don’t catch them.
4. Margaret believes that staying away from genre will give you greater freedom to write and explore the story and your characters.
5. Your job as a writer is to make your story the best and the most compelling you can.
6. For Margaret, the science fiction, sci-fantasy and speculative fiction are all that she calls “wonder tales” — what-if books that deal with possibilities in a society, which have not yet been enacted.
7. Margaret advises all the future writers of speculative fiction to take the current society and the current events and move them further down the road to see what the future may bring.
8. Margaret warns that speculative fiction is just like any other fiction; it’s not going to be automatically interesting. It needs its own set of rules to make it compelling and plausible.
9. Utopias describe a world that’s better than the one we live in.
10. Dystopias describe a world that’s worse than the one we live in.
11. Utopia and dystopia can be a complex terrain since one person’s utopia can be another person’s dystopia. Each dystopia may contain a smaller utopia and vice versa.
12. Margaret feels that any technology or fantastic element in speculative fiction should have roots in what we, like species, can currently do/accomplish or are about to do or accomplish.
13. If you are working with realistic or speculative mode, research will only strengthen your project. However, Margaret advises researching only after you complete your first draft. She feels that if you focus too much on research while working on your first draft, it may sidetrack or slow down the plot.
14. The research will help you keep your story. But your readers can be details of the story you get wrong.
15. If you write about historical multiple sources to gain a much better and broader perspective.
16. Margaret says that the writer’s path isn’t the same as their career. The writer’s path isn’t one of certainty. As a writer, you are always trying to do or learn something new, or take an artistic risk you haven’t considered before.
17. Writing gift is just one aspect of your writing career; you also need to put in work and time.
18. Margaret says that there are no guarantees in the artistic world. And sometimes, even though you do all the work, it can still disappear into the void.
19. Margaret says that you should always write for a single reader at a time.
20. Each agent is different, represents different types of books and has their own approach. When you are looking for an agent, the most important is that you find someone who loves your work, not someone who wants to make a quick sale.
21. While getting ready to sell your second novel, some people in the publishing industry will expect your book to be in the same mode or subject as your first one. However, you should always write what you want to write and make it as good as your last book.
22. A story is made up of events and characters.
23. A story happens because daily routine is interrupted, and it’s undoubtedly not a day like any other day — something unique needs to happen.
24. The plot may involve the threat that is coming to the character from either the inside or the outside.
25. All the events that take place in your story should be significant enough to pull your reader into the story and make them want to know what comes next.
26. Margaret says that each story is made up of “building blocks”, coming from other stories. Your job, as a writer, is to know those building blocks and create your own stories.
27. You want to infuse your stories not only with visual details but also with smell, sound, taste and touch. The sensory details should be vivid and significant.
— What do you hear or smell if you close your eyes?
— What do you sense if you cover your ears?
28. An essayist relays on abstraction and judgment to describe characters. Fiction writer needs to relay on significant concrete details, which help readers to arrive at their judgment and conclusion.