Category Archives: Writing

News that Stays News

Lovecraft
The best of the writing web, compiled by howie

The Passive Voice: eBooks Could Finally Inch Past Print
A Writer’s Path: Showing vs. Telling
Alice Osborn: 5 Ways to Keep On Truckin’ After Rejection
Kendall F. Person: A Lesson in Marketing from Evel Knievel
The Better Man: Live a great story
Quinn’s Books: Naming Jack the Ripper
Dave’s Corner of the Universe: He Stole Enstines Brain!
Cristian Mihai: You’ll Live Forever if a Writer Falls in Love with You

How to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

I will confess to having never been tempted to participate in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The goal of dashing off a 50,000 word manuscript in 30 days struck me as gimmicky and pointless.

But I may have to change my mind. Though a recent Publishers Weekly article on NaNoWriMo is entitled “How to Succeed at NaNoWriMo,” I’m more interested in WHY I should participate.

Turns out the article zooms right in on that concern, and it got my attention:

NaNoWriMo’s pressing time constraints leave little time for polishing and perfecting—and that’s perhaps the point.

Marissa Meyer, whose novels Cinder and Scarlet (Square Fish, 2014) began as NaNoWriMo drafts, says the beauty of the program is that it “forces you to silence that internal editor and just get something written. If you’re telling yourself that it’s OK to be writing something bad because you can always come back and fix it later, it takes a lot of the pressure off.”

Ouch. That hit home. That internal editor remains one of my biggest writing roadblocks. I can’t peck out two sentences on the laptop without having to go back and proof what little I’ve done. I know I’m supposed to complete my manuscript before getting all editorially and nit-picky, but I succumb every time to the temptation to tweak what I’ve written. And that slows me down, which impedes the completion of my manuscript, and a completed first draft, despite its inevitable ugly spots, is an accomplishment that will spur me on to sticking to the whole process.

I used to dismiss flash fiction as a gimmick, too, until I tried my hand at it and discovered the rigor and discipline it takes to complete quality pieces. It isn’t easy, and that’s the point. There’s no doubt writing flash fiction has improved my writing by forcing me to say what I want to say in fewer, stronger words. You can judge for yourself here and here.

So look out, NaNoWriMo 2015. Here I come.

News that stays news

Ezra

Compiled by il miglior fabbro

Sara Hoyt : No More Crying Now
Ryan Lanz: Under the Microscope: The Destiny Matrix
Alice Osborn: How to Effectively Prepare For Your First Writers’ Conference
Jacke Wilson: Brush with Greatness: Harry Shearer and Me!
Notes from an Alien: Some Questions for The Serious Writer
Bob Mayer: The Last Czar
Fred on the Head: What Does a Half-Century Look Like?
Cristian Mihai: Over the Edge

The Body Keeps the Score

Hemingway Writing

There’s an old saying that nothing bad can happen to a writer because it’s all inspiration. We’ve heard about writers pouring their hearts onto the page to confront and expel inner demons. Edgar Allen Poe. H.P. Lovecraft. Ernest Hemingway. For them, writing was therapy.

Now we have science that confirms that insight:

It is now widely accepted that stressful experiences — whether divorce or final exams or loneliness—have a negative effect on immune function, but this was a highly controversial notion at the time of Pennebaker’s study. Building on his protocols, a team of researchers at the Ohio State University College of Medicine compared two groups of students who wrote either about a personal trauma or about a superficial topic. Again, those who wrote about personal traumas had fewer visits to the student health center, and their improved health correlated with improved immune function, as measured by the action of T lymphocytes (natural killer cells) and other immune markers in the blood. This effect was most obvious directly after the experiment, but it could still be detected six weeks later.

Numerous experiments have since replicated Pennekbaker’s findings. Writing experiments from around the world, with grade-school students, nursing-home residents, medical students, maximum-security prisoners, arthritis sufferers, new mothers, and rape victims, consistently show that writing about upsetting events improves physical and mental health. This shouldn’t surprise us: Writing is one of the most effective ways to access an inner world of feelings that is the key to recovering from genuine trauma and everyday stress alike.

The goal is a sound mind in a sound body. It’s not either/or. I’ve long felt that Cartesian dualism is as wrong-headed as it is mechanistic and dehumanizing, and that living and feeling and thinking as a whole person rather than as a ghost in a machine is the path to fulfillment. That theme often inspires my writing.

Rather than rejecting the body and nature as lowly, and the mind as somehow imprisoned in dumb matter, we need to grasp the unity of both and live — and write — accordingly.

Even Literary Rock Stars Get the Blues

King

You don’t want to miss the Rolling Stone interview with Stephen King. Even if horror isn’t your cup of espresso, the insights into the creative mind are priceless. Check out King’s confession about the fears that stoke his nightmares:

Like what?

The one that recurs is that I’m going to be in a play, and I get to the theater and it’s opening night and not only can I not find my costume, but I realize that I have never learned the lines.

How do you interpret that?

It’s just insecurity – fear of failure, fear of falling short.

You still fear failure after all these years of success?

Sure. I’m afraid of all kinds of things. I’m afraid of failing at whatever story I’m writing – that it won’t come up for me, or that I won’t be able to finish it.

King’s On Writing is within reach even as I peck at the keyboard. It’s one I highly recommend. The first half is a confessional/autobiography. Before I’d read it, I had no idea of King’s alcohol and cocaine addictions. How he managed to survive them and end them is a heart-wrenching tale. You cannot help but be moved by King’s honesty and courage.

The second half focuses on the craft of writing, and is a classic of the genre, packed with practical advice. Well worth your money and time.

Kill your adjectives

Helmet

Here’s a bit of winning advice from Ryan Lanz over at A Writer’s Path:

A lot of new writers–I was certainly guilty of this, myself–think that every sentence needs to be a colorful tapestry of words strung together, and that everything needs to “pop” to hold the reader’s attention. Why else do most new writers try to think of anything other than the simple “said” as a dialogue tag (more on dialogue tags here)? I was quick to discover that there is beauty in a short, bleak sentence. In fact, after a string of medium to long sentences, they are often my favorite ones to write.

Ryan is right on target. Consider Rembrandt’s Man in a Golden Helmet. The stark background not only sets off the dazzling helmet, but subtly  highlights a face full of equally dark memories. The contrast actually supplements the unity of the composition.

This is a lesson I have to keep learning over and over. Back in my early days as a fiction scribbler, I couldn’t get published. After making a perfect pest of myself quizzing editors why they didn’t accept my submissions, one finally told me my descriptions were getting in the way of the plot and characterization. (Maybe that came from overdosing on T.C. Boyle and H.P. Lovecraft.) Anyway, the perfect tonic for my affliction was in reading lots of Elmore Leonard and Ernest Hemingway. I even typed out Hemingway’s texts to see what it felt like to produce such sentences, and started trying to write the next sentence. My acceptance rate bloomed – though I still get occasional rejections. That’s just the way it is.