Your E-Book Is Reading You

I don’t have a Kindle or any other kind of e-book. I prefer paper to plastic when it comes to a “screen.” I’ve said it before in other forums, but the ideal electronic book for me would be a paperback-like object — one that was bendable, smelled like paper and had 200 or so pages — but that worked like an e-book. You could download your favorite novel or story collection to this little gadget, enjoy it’s bookiness and still have all of the advantages of an electronic book. Continue reading

Don’t Get Trapped in the Blogmire

I’ve only been writing this blog for about five weeks now, give or take a few days. And in that time, I’ve noticed something a little disconcerting. People — by that, I mean “writers” — are spending too much time writing blog posts or reading other blogs — so much time that it’s distracting them from actually writing fiction. Why just yesterday morning, one blogger I follow announced that he was no longer going to maintain his blog. He was cutting back, he said, because the blog was taking up too much of his time. He wrote, “I haven’t even looked at my novel in six months and she’s getting pissed with the lack of attention.” (I won’t mention any names.)

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Drunk Texts From Famous Authors

There’s a funny piece in the Paris Review worth reading. It’s all illustration, a quick read and will bring a smile to your face. It’s called Drunk Texts From Famous Authors. Had John Cheever an iPhone, he might have texted a friend: “The club car on the 6:12 always seemed to me a pleasant spot to drink seven glasses of gin. Nothing is serious, but I am throwing up in my hat. I am throwing up in my hat.” Continue reading

Data Mine the Work

Yesterday in my post, The Exploratory Draft, I mentioned the interview I read in The Writer with Adam Johnson. Johnson, like many writers, believes that successful stories come out of hard work. You have to put in the hours. He writes at least 1,000 words per day and he keeps track of his progress in a spreadsheet. He notes, among other things, the day, the time, the place he wrote, the story, and the number of words. He said that over the years, he’s been able to “data mine” his spreadsheet to see where and what time of day he’s the most productive. Continue reading

The Exploratory Draft

I’ve started doing something completely different. Instead of trying to write a story. I’ve begun simply to write. The writing is more like riffing or freewriting. I focus on the characters, or the situation, or the setting, or the emotions, or the back story and just go. My goal each time I sit down to riff like this is 1,000 words. I’m capturing some nice phrases and images in the process. I’m also capturing snippets of scenes. When I have sentences that I like, I copy and paste them into a separate document — the story. Continue reading

Leaving a Bookstore


“Leaving any bookstore is hard, especially on a day in August, when the street outside burns and glares, and the books inside are cool and crisp to the touch; especially on a day in January, when the wind is blowing, the ice is treacherous, and the books inside seem to gather together in colorful warmth. It’s hard to leave a bookstore any day of the year, though, because a bookstore is one of the few places where all the cantankerous, conflicting, alluring voices of the world co-exist in peace and order and the avid reader is as free as a person can possibly be, because she is free to choose among them.”
Jane Smiley

Photo: cuban8 / Flickr Creative Commons

Pop Up Books for Grown Ups

In this world filling fast with digital books, I love to see that paper books are still going a long way toward capturing the imagination of readers. Thank good for artists like Mengyu Chen. Check out her pop-up books for grown ups. And then ask yourself, What if there were pop-up libraries devoted only to pop-up books?

What’s the Situation?

I have a couple of short stories stories I’m working on that don’t seem to be going anywhere. I took a break from spinning my wheels the other day and came across a little section titled “Situation” in the book Creating Short Fiction, by Damon Knight. He writes, “A dramatic situation is unstable—you know it can’t stay this way forever—and it has at least two possible outcomes, one very desirable and one not.” At the end of this short section, he provides an exercise. It is this: Choose three published plotted stories that you like, and for each one write a one-sentence description of the situation (a) at the beginning of the story and (b) at the end. Continue reading

Dialogue That Multitasks

While at the library last night, I glanced at a copy of the July 2012 issue of The Writer and a quote from ZZ Packer on the cover caught my eye. It was about dialogue and prompted me to open to the article and read the interview. I thought I’d share what she said about dialogue, because I found it incredibly useful. The interviewer, Gabriel Packard, asked Packer: “Something many critics have admired is the way your dialogue vividly evokes character. How do you go about crafting dialogue to make it so effective?
Packer says: Continue reading

An Emotion ‘Tasting’ Chart

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about emotion in fiction — how to convey it, how to evoke it. I have a lot to say about it and am sure that my comments will evolve and grow over time. For today, I simply want to point you to a very interesting chart that breaks emotions down from the primary feelings of love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness and fear (there’s some debate on what the primary feelings are, by the way) to the secondary and tertiary emotions that those primary feelings embody. Continue reading