Author Philipp Meyer On Motivation, Productivity, and Turning ‘The Son’ Into AMC’s Next Hit Series

Writing a book isn’t easy. If you need proof, all you have to do is sit down in front of a computer, stare at the blinking cursor in an open doc, and try to write. It takes skill, it takes time, and most of all, it takes persistence. 

And that raises the question: How do writers stay motivated? 

We recently caught up with author Philipp Meyer to talk about staying motivated, being productive, and adapting his multi-generational epic The Son into AMC’s next hit series. 

How involved were you in the making of the show?

My friends and I from grad school created the show together and continued to be involved in all elements including development, production, writing, and historical accuracy.

What was it like seeing your work come to life?

It was definitely pretty surreal. The best part, by far, though, was learning to work with and write for the actors.

Where will you be watching the season premiere?

At home with my friends!

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

The only real trap is giving up too soon. Or giving up for any reason at all. I've only known one person who didn't have the talent to make it, but I've known dozens of people who had the talent, but gave up when the going got tough.

How do you stay motivated when working on a novel?

I don't! I don't have to. Writing is the thing I love more than anything else.  

If you could tell your younger writing self one piece of advice, what would it be?

The truth is, the only advice that matters is keep writing. Everything else is pretty incidental to that. Eventually, when you get good enough, you will make it. If you have not made it yet, it's because you aren't quite good enough yet. It took me about 15 years of working my absolute hardest, never giving up, never doing half-assed work. 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

On books! That's all you need!

What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?

Well, whatever interests you, really. I can't really say this enough, but there are no tricks. You get good enough and you work hard enough, you are going to make it. It's that simple. If you haven't made it yet, no worries, keep writing and working hard and it will come. 

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Anything by James Kelman.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

Unless you lie about them or malign them, you have done them a pretty big favor by telling their story. So probably, they owe you. 

What’s the best way to market your books?

Write a brilliant book. That will get you a brilliant agent. The brilliant agent will get you a brilliant publisher. It's the publisher's job to market the book, not yours. 

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Whatever is called for. If you are researching before you even begin the book, something might be wrong. Why are you writing about something you literally know nothing about? Write stuff you at least vaguely understand to begin with, then, when you don't believe what you're saying, go and research.

How do you select the names of your characters?

They have to be real or accurate to the time and they have to sound good.

If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?

Read more books!

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Writer’s block does not exist. It is just a fancy, self-aggrandizing word for insecurity. Get over your insecurity and get the hell to work. No one actually cares whether you write or not. No one is going to judge you or stop you. Just get to work. It's that simple. 

After you read The Son, don’t forget to tune in to AMC’s premiere on April 8 at 9/8C. We’re so excited to see Philipp Meyer's epic brought to life that we teamed up with AMC to bring Scribd readers an exciting giveaway! You could win a three-month subscription to Scribd or $1,000!

There are two ways to enter. You can either:

Follow @Scribd on Twitter and retweet our special AMC’s The Son picture using the hashtag #ScribdSweeps.

Or…

Like Scribd on Facebook and comment on our special AMC’s The Son picture and tell us why you’re excited to watch the show.

Winners will be chosen at random. For official rules and regulations, please click here.

FeaturedDavid Pemberton