Interview with fantasy writer Tim Powers about being a "secret historian"

Mitch writes, "I interviewed fantasy novelist Tim Powers about how he writes. We talked about working through story problems, using YouTube as a secret weapon, why he avoids social media, and his obsessively detailed outlines and research notes. 'In order to build a building, you put up so much scaffolding that the scaffolding outweighs the building.'"

"And you need to remember that first draft work is supposed to be pedestrian and lifeless and stupid, and so if you write thirty or forty pages of first draft and you read it and find that it is in fact pedestrian and lifeless and stupid, you've got to tell yourself, good, we're right on track, this is how it's supposed to be. This leads to a finished book, which will ideally be good. This is one of the necessary steps. Rewriting and revision will make it, we hope, lively and interesting and suspenseful.

"I've always thought people who claim to have writers' block are snagged at that point when they see that it's stupid and tepid and lifeless. And obviously a person who has writer's block isn't claiming that they're incapable of writing a sentence or a paragraph. They're lamenting that when they do write a paragraph it's dumb. And I would want to tell them, keep going, good, it's supposed to be dumb. You'll touch it up, you'll fix it, you'll polish it.

"In my own first drafts, when I re-read them, it always seems like a bunch of people in street clothes holding scripts, standing on a bare stage, looking at tape marks on the floor and reading from the script very haltingly. And you think ok, well, that's the first rehearsal. We're going to get sets, we're going to get costumes, there will be real drinks in the glasses, this isn't the finished production.

Tim Powers: Interview With a Secret Historian