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Recommended Books
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    The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have to): Guide to the Legal and Business Practices of Writing for the Entertainment Industry
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    Ambrose Bierce's Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic's Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers
    by Ambrose Bierce, Jan Freeman
  • The Writer's Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the Twentieth Century's Preeminent Writers (Modern Library)
    The Writer's Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the Twentieth Century's Preeminent Writers (Modern Library)
    Modern Library
  • The Writer on Her Work, Volume 1
    The Writer on Her Work, Volume 1
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    The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition
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    The Writer's Legal Companion: The Complete Handbook For The Working Writer, Third Edition
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    Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular
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    The Writing Life
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    The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
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  • The Writing of Fiction
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    by Edith Wharton
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    Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print
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    Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
    by Bonnie Friedman
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    You're a Genius All the Time: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose
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  • Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
    Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
    by Ray Bradbury

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Tuesday
Mar112014

22 Rules of Storytelling from Pixar

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

EMMA COATS

Monday
Mar102014

Writing is Linear and Sequential

Writing is linear and sequential; Sentence B must follow Sentence A, and Sentence C must follow Sentence B, and eventually you get to Sentence Z. The hard part of writing isn’t the writing; it’s the thinking. You can solve most of your writing problems if you stop after every sentence and ask: What does the reader need to know next?”

WILLIAM ZINSSER

Sunday
Mar092014

As A Writer It's Your Duty to Lie

There’s an enormous difference between being a story writer and being a regular person. As a person, it’s your duty to stay on a straight and even keel, not to break down blubbering in the streets, not to pull rude drivers from their cars, not to swing from the branches of trees. But as a writer it’s your duty to lie and to view everything in life, however outrageous, as an interesting possibility. You may need to be ruthless or amoral in your writing to be original. Telling a story straight from real life is only being a reporter, not a creator. You have to make your story bigger, better, more magical, more meaningful than life is, no matter how special or wonderful in real life the moment may have been.

RICK BASS

Saturday
Mar082014

There Is No Royal Path to Good Writing

There is no royal path to good writing, and such paths as do exist do not lead through neat critical gardens, but through the jungles of self, the world, and of craft.

JESSAMYN WEST

Friday
Mar072014

Articulate from the Specific

Every writer must articulate from the specific. They must reach down where they stand, because there is nothing else from which to draw.

GLORIA NAYLOR

Thursday
Mar062014

There Is No Right Way Or Wrong Way

No one can teach you exactly how to write. Each person approaches creative writing differently. Every writer has his or her own method. I usually have a character or story idea inside my head for a long time (sometimes years) before I actually begin. I know where I'm starting and where I'm going but I never know what's going to happen in the middle or if the ending will be what I imagined on the day I began to write. It's the surprise that makes writing exciting for me. Other writers know everything before they begin. They make detailed outlines or have it all worked out in their heads before they put a word on paper. There is no right way or wrong way. There are a hundred different ways to tell the same story. Whatever works for you is okay.

JUDY BLUME

Wednesday
Mar052014

Writing Is A Voyage of Discovery

Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one; it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order eventually to become that path himself.

HENRY MILLER

Tuesday
Mar042014

The Difference Between Fact and Fiction

The world that fiction comes from is fragile. It melts into insignificance against the universe of what is clear and visible and known. It persists because it is based on the power of cadence and rhythm in language and these are mysterious and hard to defeat and keep in their place. The difference between fact and fiction is like the difference between land and water.

COLM TÓIBÍN

Monday
Mar032014

High Concept is the Enemy of the Writer

High concept is the enemy of the writer. The friend of the writer is the human being, the full-blooded character interacting with another character.

JOSEPH L. MANKIEWICZ

Sunday
Mar022014

Write What You Really Think

Write what you really think and mean, not what you think you should think and not what you thought you would think and not what you hope it will mean, but what is really authentic and true.

SUSAN ORLEAN

Saturday
Mar012014

Smarten Up Your Protagonist

Your protagonist is your reader’s portal into the story. The more observant he or she can be, the more vivid will be the world you’re creating. They don’t have to be super-educated, they just have to be mentally active. Keep them looking, thinking, wondering, remembering.

JANET FITCH

Friday
Feb282014

Rejection

To be a writer is to embrace rejection as a way of life.

DANA STABENOW

 

Failure is part of it. You will be rejected dozens and dozens of times. The best way to prepare for it is to have something else in the works by the time the rejection letter arrives. Invest your hope in the next project. Learning to cope with rejection is a good trait to develop.

PO BRONSON

 

You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.

RAY BRADBURY

 

This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it “to the editor who can appreciate my work” and it has simply come back stamped “Not at this address.” Just keep looking for the right address.

BARBARA KINGSOLVER

 

I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.

SYLVIA PLATH

 

I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, “To hell with you.”

SAUL BELLOW

 

Work like hell! I had 122 rejection slips before I sold a story.

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

 

Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.

JAMES LEE BURKE

 

Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil — but there is no way around them.

ISAAC ASIMOV


The great American novel has not only already been written, it has already been rejected.

SOMERSET MAUGHAM

 

Thursday
Feb272014

Close the Door

Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer.

BARBARA KINGSOLVER

Wednesday
Feb262014

Vonnegut's Rules for the Short Story

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Tuesday
Feb252014

This Is Sacred Work

Figuring out what the public wants, or even what the public is: that's the job of pollsters and publicists and advertisers. All those people study the marketplace. But the creative artist can change the world. A true writer opens people's ears and eyes, not merely playing to the public, but changing minds and lives. This is sacred work.

ALLEGRA GOODMAN

Monday
Feb242014

An Intimate Letter to a Stranger

The less conscious one is of being “a writer,” the better the writing. And though reading is the best school of writing, school is the worst place for reading. Writing should ... be as spontaneous and urgent as a letter to a lover, or a message to a friend who has just lost a parent ... and writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.

PICO IYER

Sunday
Feb232014

Put Everything on the Same Subject in the Same Place

The most useful advice on writing I've ever received comes from Gil Rogin, who told me that he always uses his best thing in his lead, and his second best thing in his last paragraph; and from Dwight Macdonald, who wrote that the best advice he ever received was to put everything on the same subject in the same place. To these dictums I would add the advice to ask yourself repeatedly: what is this about?

THOMAS POWERS

Saturday
Feb222014

The Writing Impulse Seeks Its Own Level

The writing impulse seeks its own level and isn’t always given a chance to find it. You can’t make up your mind in a Comp Lit class that you’re going to be a Russian novelist. Or even an American novelist. Or a poet. Young writers find out what kinds of writers they are by experiment. If they choose from the outset to practice exclusively a form of writing because it is praised in the classroom or otherwise carries appealing prestige, they are vastly increasing the risk inherent in taking up writing in the first place. It is so easy to misjudge yourself and get stuck in the wrong genre. You avoid that, early on, by writing in every genre. If you are telling yourself you’re a poet, write poems. Write a lot of poems. If fewer than one work out, throw them all away; you’re not a poet. Maybe you’re a novelist. You won’t know until you have written several novels.

JOHN McPHEE

Friday
Feb212014

Respect Writer's Block

When I sit down in order to write, sometimes it’s there; sometimes it’s not. But that doesn’t bother me anymore. I tell my students there is such a thing as “writer’s block,” and they should respect it. You shouldn’t write through it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven’t got it right now.

TONI MORRISON

Thursday
Feb202014

Margaret Atwood’s Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

1. Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.

2. If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.

3. Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.

4. If you’re using a computer, always safeguard new text with a ­memory stick.

5. Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.

6. Hold the reader’s attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don’t know who the reader is, so it’s like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What fascinates A will bore the pants off B.

7. You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

8. You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.

9. Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.

10. Prayer might work. Or reading ­something else. Or a constant visualization of the holy grail that is the finished, published version of your resplendent book.