Writerly Hang-ups, Obsessions, and Distractions—and Ways to Course Correct, featuring R.O. Kwon

Sep 9, 2019

R.O. Kwon

In today’s episode, debut novelist R.O. Kwon, author of the acclaimed novel, The Incendiaries, talks about the book that took her ten years to write, her obsession with language and how she learned to sideline those obsessions in order to finish the book. She talks about her inspirations, the dead-end of following a bad metaphor, and strategies for finishing a book that went through some 50+ versions.


R.O. Kwon’s nationally bestselling first novel, The Incendiaries, is published by Riverhead, and it is being translated into five languages. Named a best book of the year by over forty publications, The Incendiaries is an American Booksellers Association Indie Next #1 Pick and an Indies Introduce selection. The novel was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Award for Best First Book, Los Angeles Times First Book Prize, and Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Fiction Prize. Kwon’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, The Paris Review, Buzzfeed, New York Magazine, NPR, and elsewhere.

The takeaway: Keep an Inspiration Log

Today’s guest, R.O. Kwon, shared in an Atlantic interview that she keeps a giant, running document of bits and pieces from books she loves. We encourage you to take up this practice—whether it’s a journal or a Word document that lives on your desktop. This can be a running list of words or bits of other people’s writing that touches you, moves you, stirs you. Use it for inspiration like R.O. does, or you might find that it wends its way into your actual book, or a future book. Over time this list will start to feel like a friend you can turn to when you’re needing to drink from the well.

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