All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews:
I think the main thing, he said, is that it should really rock.
What should rock? I asked him.
The story, he said, it should just move really fast, like pedal to the metal, so it doesn’t get boring. Plus, it’s hard to write, right? You want to go in, get the job done, and get out. Like when I worked for Renee’s septic tank cleaning.
I considered this and realized that it was the best writing advice I’d received in years. In all my life. When he dropped me off and asked if maybe we could see each other again while I was in the city, grab a coffee or something, a movie, I told him I wasn’t sure how long I’d be there. I hadn’t told him about Elf. Cool, he said, let’s keep in touch. We kissed. I went into the lobby and waved goodbye to him through the tinted window, smiling and letting out a barely whispered monosyllabic admonishment to myself. Stop.