A Writer’s Habits: Rachel Goodman

What type of writing do you do?
Almost entirely fiction.  I came to Wesleyan writing poetry, then I quickly realized that poetry is silly and fiction is great.  Fiction is even more mysterious than poetry sometimes, because it usually gives the illusion of clarity.  Well – really I like it because of the characters.

Where is your favorite place to write?
In my room, I suppose.  Every inch of wall-space is covered with posters, which is actually more distracting than it is inspiring.

What’s the first thing you wrote that you can remember?
I wrote my first story in first or second grade, but before that I was a huge fan of rhyming couplets.  The story was called The Paper Boy and it was about a boy made of paper.  He ends up saving a princess from a fire, sacrificing himself in the process.  Very heavy stuff for a six-year-old.  I’ve always wondered if maybe I stole the idea from somewhere.

How early did you begin writing?
When I was maybe five I got a bulletin board as a present, and I tacked up all those rhyming couplets I mentioned earlier.  I was very proud of myself.  In retrospect, I needed to work on my spelling.

What’s your favorite thing that you have written?
I usually prefer whatever I’ve just finished and despise all work previous to that.  I hope this means I’m improving with each piece.

Where did you find your subjects?
I always write about exaggerated versions of my family members, much to their chagrin.

What’s the best thing you’ve read recently?
I was completely taken in by Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections.  Is that cliched?  I thought he captured the turn of the 21st century perfectly.  Technology, sexuality, the perils of academia, all in tight, clear prose.  Who could ask for more?

What writers have influenced you?
Daniel Handler, Dostoevsky, and Tom Stoppard.  It’s common knowledge that I’m obsessed with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

Guil:  A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense not to himself.
Ros:  Or just as mad.
Guil:  Or just as mad.
Ros:  And he does both.
Guil:  So there you are.
Ros:  Stark raving sane.

GENIUS, am I right?

When you start writing, do you start with a complete story in mind or do you pursue an idea and see where it takes you?
For the past couple of years, I’ve been outlining the main plot points beforehand, then letting the details fill themselves in.  If I don’t have an ending in mind — even if I change it later — my writing becomes chaotic and disjointed, and I end up lost.  I need an endpoint that I can see.  Be prepared, as the Boy Scouts say…

How do you know when you’ve reached the end of a piece?
Do you mean the end-end, or when I’ve finished revising it?  I’m one of those over-editors… I’ll look at a poem I wrote two years ago and think, “Crap, that adjective is unnecessary.”

How much do you consider the reader when you write?
I guess I try to write things that I would want to read.

Is there a particular person who you share your early drafts with?
No.  That would probably be helpful.

What has your favorite writing class at Wes been?
COL201 with Paula Sharp taught me everything I needed to know about the basics of writing short fiction.  All of my current writing is built on that class’s foundation.

Are you writing a thesis? What is it about?
Next year I will.  It’s a creative thesis about my mom (see above) and her Puerto Rican identity.  And maybe my lack thereof.

Are you involved in any writing groups or events?
No.  That would probably be helpful.

Do you hope to pursue writing in the future? How?
I’d love to.  The possibilities are endless, right?  Endlessly tiresome, that is.  An MFA program?  Journalism?  Education?  I don’t know…

Rachel Goodman is a junior College of Letters major also pursuing the Writing Certificate. A Writer’s Habits is a series of interviews with student writers on campus.

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