Literary Birthday – 20 January – Nancy Kress

Happy Birthday, Nancy Kress, born 20 January 1948.


  1. Write. Just do it. Then again. Then some more. And more. Do not wait for inspiration; if you do enough of it often enough, inspiration will eventually come.
  2. Fiction is about stuff that’s screwed up.
  3. Writing is not a matter of inspiration except for your initial idea. Writing is a matter of sitting down and doing it. And you have to do a lot of it to get publishable.
  4. The mistake I see most often is starting with pages of expository ‘background’. It’s much better to get characters on stage, doing something, as soon as possible.
  5. Conflict is the place where character and plot intersect.
  6. [The first scene should] Establish voice and tone, orient readers in time and space, either start conflict or hint at conflict to come, and – above all – offer the reader something interesting: an intriguing character, a tense situation, a fascinating question, or gorgeous prose.
  7. The thing about writing is that it’s a solitary activity. It’s you and your computer and a bunch of people who don’t exist. And when you spend a lot of your day doing that, it’s good to get out and talk with other people who are in your field. I like conventions. I like SF parties. I like teaching workshops. I like the contact with people.
  8. Every paragraph should accomplish two goals: advance the story, and develop your characters as complex human beings.
  9. An epilogue, like a prologue, is usually most effective when removed in time or location or characters from the main story. Otherwise, just make it the last chapter.
  10. Characterisation is not divorced from plot, not a coat of paint you slap on after the structure of events is already built. Rather characterisation is inseparable from plot.
  11. You must learn to be three people at once: writer, character, and reader.
  12. Changers are characters who alter in significant ways as a result of the events of your story. They learn something or grow into better or worse people, but by the end of the story they are not the same personalities they were in the beginning. Their change, in its various stages, is called the story’s emotional arc.

Nancy Kress is an American science fiction writer. In addition to her novels, Kress has written many books on writing, which include Dynamic CharactersCharacters, Emotion & Viewpoint, and Beginnings, Middles & Ends.

Image via Nancy Kress

by Amanda Patterson

Please click here for our Literary Birthday Calendar

Posted on: 20th January 2015