Steve Adams

Writing Coach, Editor, and Writer

My name is Steve Adams. I’m a writing coach, editor, and award-winning author.

As a writing coach I’ve worked with published, award-winning novelists, short-fiction writers, and nonfiction writers; unpublished but dedicated and experienced writers; and those new to the game who have always believed they had something to say, but didn’t know quite how or where to begin.

My many years of writing and analyzing a broad range of forms (fiction, essay, playwriting, screenwriting, poetry) give me structural insight into manuscript evaluation, and my study of, and in-depth exposure to, music, acting, dance, theater arts, and visual arts affords me a varying set of perspectives from which to approach the process of writing and the disciplines that support art. I find coaching writers a form of work almost as rewarding as writing itself.

Encountering the terrain

“Running into the inherent difficulty of the task and not knowing which way to turn is not being blocked. It's just encountering the terrain, the territory where you'll be spending more time than you ever thought you would spend anywhere. Relax. As I've said before, if you're spending the time struggling with it, then it's going well. It is ALWAYS going well if you're working, whether you're finding it easy or not. And if you're not working—not taking the chances and suffering the stumbles through it—then get to work. Be stubborn and go on and make the mistakes and take the blind alleyways. That's the way it gets done. I'll repeat myself here, too: you can't ruin it. Truly: you cannot ruin it. You can only make it necessary to do it again. So, you do it again. And again. As many times as it takes to become itself, solid and so strangely, happily, separate from you.”

— Richard Bausch

Keep the channel open

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep directly open to and aware of the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

— Martha Graham

How to Be Less Lame

"When I write, 'Bob was an asshole,' and then, feeling this perhaps somewhat lacking in specificity, revise it to read, Bob snapped impatiently at the barista,' then ask myself, seeking yet more specificity, why Bob might have done that, and revise to, 'Bob snapped impatiently at the young barista, who reminded him of his dead wife,' and then pause and add, 'who he missed so much, especially now, at Christmas,' – I didn’t make that series of changes because I wanted the story to be more compassionate. I did it because I wanted it to be less lame."

— George Saunders

Habit

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice.”

— Octavia E. Butler

Relationships

I used to think in terms of characters, how to develop their eccentricities and quirks. Then I realized that it’s better to focus on the relationships instead, and then the characters develop naturally.

— Kazuo Ishaguro

Imagine

“I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.”

― Ursula Le Guin

Thanks, Poets & Writers!

Just found out Poets & Writers gave a nice callout to my essay at The Millions about saying goodbye to Glimmer Train. Thanks, P&W!
”’Every literary journal is, in its beginning and at its end, about people.’ At the Millions, Steve Adams bids a fond farewell to Glimmer Train Stories, the literary magazine founded in Oregon by sisters Linda Swanson-Davies and Susan Burmeister-Brown in 1990. The journal, which for thirty years has been dedicated to publishing fiction by emerging writers, will publish its last issue in Fall 2019.”

Meaning

“But a writer senses meaning in 'the mystery of things,' and reports about the discoveries that come from merely setting narrative in motion, letting people move and breathe and be in the prose, and that is what finally connects us all, across time and distance and the grave itself. We are about SHOWING the human journey as itself, what Conrad meant when he said that above all he wanted to make us SEE. Wanted to make us feel the 'solidarity of the human family.' This is why it's such important work, what Bill Maxwell in a letter to me called 'this blessed occupation.' So the reward is in the act itself, of giving forth meaning through expression in this miraculous way, with words. Our coin, our spark and music, the bread of our daily existence. It isn’t work, so much as it is the central element of our nature: our beautiful tending toward expression.”

— Richard Bausch

I am ready

“I have rarely sat down at my desk with something to say, other than I am ready. The sitting comes first, turning up with a certain alertness to possibility. Only then does the idea feel free to settle. It settles small and very tentatively, then, through your active attention, it can grow into something much bigger.” 

— Nick Cave