The Path Not Taken, Yet

muddy-path

This is a difficult blog for me to write. I’ve been sort of avoiding it since I got home from the Writing by Writers conference in Tomales Bay, Calif. But a week has passed and it’s time to step up. The reason I’ve been avoiding this blog is that as soon as I articulate what I’m about to say, as soon as I tell you what I think, I have to follow through. That’s just how I am. You’ll never know if I do it or not, but I will. Continue reading

Off Course

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I’m still coming down from my six days in Marin County where I took a writing workshop with Ron Carlson at the Writing by Writers conference. I spent some time the last couple of days transcribing my notes and downloading images. I came across the one above this morning, a panoramic view of Bodega Bay. It’s a gorgeous spot and the only reason I saw it is that I went off course, along with the two other women I shared a rental car with.

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Retreat!

gloucester-shoreTo MFA or not to MFA. That has been the question for me as of late. I was leaning toward the MFA. Here’s why: I wanted more time to write and I wanted the potential networking opportunities. Well after explaining this to a friend, who helped me get down to the nitty-gritty, he wondered couldn’t I make time and network in other ways that didn’t require me to quit my job (yet) and fork over tens of thousands of dollars? Continue reading

The Quiet Solitude of Writing Away

Last week I spent my time in Provincetown, Ma., at the Fine Arts Work Center. I was there to attend a workshop taught by Pam Houston. But I think I was also there to see what it was like to get away and write. I’m considering applying to some residencies and I thought my time in PTown would be a good test to see if I was productive or if I would go crazy. Fortunately it was the former. Continue reading

Read Your Sentences Aloud

I read this post from a friend of mine and was reminded of something John Cheever wrote in the forward to his collection of stories. He said, “My favorite stories are those that were written in less than a week and that were often composed aloud.”

At about the same time that a read that post, a poet friend of mine suggested reading my sentences aloud while composing. I’ve found that the technique works best when it comes time to hone and shape a sentence, not necessarily in the first draft. For me, the first ugly draft is about getting the ideas on the page as best I can. But at some point, I’m interested in crafting beautiful sentences that contain just the right words. That’s when it makes sense to start reading them aloud. Try it and let me know if it works for you.

Related Post: Sentences Are the Pack Mules of Literature

Photo: Wonderlane / Flickr Creative Commons

Embrace the Fiction of All Things

There was a wonderful essay in the New Yorker this past week, written by Keith Ridgway. Ridgway is a Dublin-born writer and author of six books, including one collection of short stories. He begins the essay, “Everything is Fiction,” by saying, “I don’t know how to write.” 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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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

Fiction Is About the Unspeakable

I read a wonderful essay posted to Glimmertrain’s bulletin that I wanted to share with you. It’s called “All of Old. Nothing Else Ever. Ever Tried. Ever Failed,” by the writer, Silas Dent Zobal. I think it nicely gets to the heart of what writers try to do, and that is, they try to write about life’s difficulties. Maybe “difficulties” is to tepid a word. In Zobal’s case, it’s death he can’t write about. But there are plenty of other experiences that, based on your own personal history, would be torture to tackle. Here’s what he says happens every time he tries to write about death. Continue reading