Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Most Important Questions When Reading Like a Writer

One of the best ways to learn about writing is read like a writer. That is, read for craft, take the writing apart, and be aware of the choices the writer made and their effect on readers.
Reading like a writer is not simply reading... Image "Reading & Writing" (CC BY 2.0) by M.Markus.

This is often a difficult change from reading for pleasure and responding with emotion. It is a more active (versus reactive) form of reading, and it requires asking questions of the words on the page. Here, I have provided a quick guide on how to form those questions. This information is extracted and condensed from The Write Practice because I can't be trusted to know how to read like a writer on my own.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Trend of Terrible Words

There is a message that I need to get out to the world: We are destroying the beauty of written English. I'm not talking about using impact as a verb. I don't care about that. I mean, festoon was a noun for two centuries before it became a verb. I'm pretty happy with a lot of nouns that have become verbs. Language evolves. 

I don't care about business jargon or self-help talk, either. And I won't even get into using literal as figurative. I'm talking about something more insidious.

Let me explain before I identify the problem. Two words, in particular, stick in my craw because I hear them all the time: historical and inspirationalThese two words have nearly replaced historic and inspiring in popular culture, and pop culture is where we get used to using words. Once we grow accustomed to their use in everyday use, the devolution of the written language begins.
Image: Gavin Baker "Captcha" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Naufragio
You may not think these words are too bad or a sign of the decline of English, but they clutter the language with extra letters, sounds, and syllables that writers don't need when they seek clarity.

Is one suffix not enough? Do more syllables make people feel smarter?

I know historical and inspirational are actual words, but epidemical is supposedly a word, too. We never use it because it's an adjective, just like epidemic. So when something becomes widespread

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Getting to Writers' Conferences

My novel, Leave the Frigging Marshmallows, has been in process for a while. Years.
Novel notes. Photo by Robin Israel.
Part of this is because I question myself. Part of it is because I want it to be great. And part is that it is just difficult to find my way through a character-driven novel with multiple complex characters and their individual stories without any real instruction beyond other novels.

I can read all the books on craft in the world, but they never seem to fully apply to my characters and their stories. They often help me expand and enrich my characters more, and I'm grateful for that, but it often complicates things further. Often, books on writing focus on plot and structure and, when I impose such things on my characters, they fight back and story becomes forced. I really want to find a way through this messy thing.

That's the reason I started attending writers' conferences last summer. I had avoided them for a while because I thought of them as pitch sessions and I wasn't ready to pitch anything, but then I started

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Most Exciting Literary Time of the Year

The Tournament of Books is not considered a great prize and there is no monetary award, just a rooster, but I contend that it is the most exciting literary time of the year--better than the Pulitzer, the Man Booker, the National Book Award, and even the Nobel.
Woohoo! Image: "Ride a Cock horse!" (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by rubyblossom.
All those other awards are given under a shroud and with just a few lines of justification. Spend a few days in anticipation while waiting for the announcement, yeah. Get a momentary thrill, sure. Question the decision process, yes. But a day or two later, the discussion ends. The Tournament of Books is not like that--not at all.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Stuck in the Middle? Getting Past the Middle: A Novel Project, Step 2

If you recall, way back before Christmas I challenged myself and you to finish writing the second half of the first draft of a novel by the end of January. I said I was going to check in a couple times a week.

I did not check in.

The first exercise I gave you worked really well for me, and I was busy working on my book. But now we have about a week left and I want to continue with the plan, because I think it’s quite good.
Too busy to blog! (Image: Chris Brown "Work" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by zoonabar.)
This next exercise actually comes from Caroline Leavitt, author of at least 10 novels—so it seems like she

Four Chambers Press is looking for eight local authors...

Four Chambers Press is looking for eight local authors to respond to featured art installations at this year's Canal Convergence Water + Art + Light in partnership with Scottsdale Public Art February 24 - 26, 2017 at the Scottsdale Waterfront. Open to all literary genres, performance styles, and forms. Authors will receive a $100 stipend (and a $20 gift card from Changing Hands). Interested individuals can learn more and apply online at­. The deadline for