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“Something has to live and something has to die.” Here’s the writing advice Stacey Abrams swears by.

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May 6, 2021, 12:50pm

Stacey Abrams has had a busy year: on May 11th, Doubleday will publish her political thriller While Justice Sleeps, and Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House, has just picked up her three out-of-print romances for re-publication. (And that’s not to mention Abrams’s work as a politician and voting rights advocate.) Abrams’s writing is headed for commercial success—and yet, Abrams never received any formal writing training. (She wrote her first novel pseudonymously while a student at Yale Law School.) Interviewed by The New York Times, Abrams said that in lieu of a writing degree, three distinct pieces of advice have shaped her approach to writing:

Abrams, who never took formal writing classes, said her approach was shaped by three things. Anne L. Alstott, a professor of taxation at Yale Law for whom Abrams worked as a research assistant, taught her to ask, when approaching a project: “What’s the problem, why is it a problem and how do you solve it?”

Aristotle’s “Poetics,” which Abrams read in high school, made her think about plot, character and pacing.

And at Spelman College, where she went as an undergraduate, the poet and playwright Pearl Cleage taught her that “in any really good fiction, something has to live and something has to die—meaning that if there are no stakes, then there’s no payoff,” Abrams said.

It’s good advice—going back to the basics of how stories are made and what keeps us reading. And it’s heartening: perhaps if you adhere to these maxims, you too can raise $100 million for your chosen Senate candidates.

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