Tag Archives: writing

Jamaica Kincaid on How to Live and How to Write

Jamaica Kincaid

I must confess I am not familiar with Jamaica Kincaid or her works, but this collection of her quotes in Literary Hub makes me hunger for more. Here’s a small sample:

  • A professional writer is a joke. You write because you can’t do anything else, and then you have another job. I’m always telling my students go to law school or become a doctor, do something, and then write. First of all you should have something to write about, and you only have something to write about if you do something.
  • Life has a truth to it, and it’s complicated—it’s love and it’s hatred. Love and hatred don’t take turns; they exist side by side at the same time. And one’s duty, one’s obligation every day, is to choose to follow the nobler one.
  • I want to write until I die, and I hope to live a long time. I don’t want to reach a plateau; what I am interested in is living, living.

Ha! Love it. Want to read more? Check out the rest at Literary Hub.

Author Interviews with Cathleen Townsend

Author interviews

Cathleen Townsend’s Author Interviews is a respected online treasure. I’m honored to be included in the company of Dan Alatorre, D. Wallace Peach, and E. E. Rawls, just to name a few of the authors Cathleen has featured over the years.

Frankly, I had to dig deep to answer some of her questions, which revealed genuine insight and appreciation for the writing process. Cathleen asked me about projects that took me out of my comfort zone, my writing heroes, and about my latest book, The Genie Hunt. Here’s Cathleen Townsend’s Interview with M. C. Tuggle.

Traits Writers Have in Common – What I Learned from an Author Panel

I instantly recognized myself in K.L. Kranes’s post on the writing life and knew I had to share it.

K.L. Kranes, Author

20170505_105907_20170505111212159On Saturday I participated in my first author panel with a fellow local writer in the Northern Virginia area, Angela Glascock (Locksmith at the End of the Worldand moderated by another local writer, Lisa Tully.

Author panels are meant to give the audience insight on novels, authors and the writing process. But, I learned a few things too, including it seems as though we writers have a lot in common.

Here are some of the commonalities I noticed.

We wrote as children, all the time

As a kid, I remember writing all the time. I filled notebooks with stories and poems. They’d be stuff in drawers and boxes. When we’d clean out my room they’d turn up in random places. It was even an activity with my friends. While other kids were playing with toys or riding bikes, I’d rather be writing a book. Lucky for me I…

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Best fiction and writing blogs

Flannery O'Connor

The best fiction and writing blog posts from around the ‘net, all guaranteed to make you a literary legend. Compiled by flannery.

D. Wallace PeachWriters’ Critique Groups
Cathleen TownsendPinterest–Tips to Get Started
Sean P. CarlinFoundations of Storytelling: The Logline
Annabelle TroyFiction Gets Brainy
Dave AstorIt’s Earth Day in Some Parts of Literature
Nicola AlterGetting The Last Line
J. C. Wolfe16 Redundant Phrases You Should Simplify in Your Writing
Jay Dee ArcherGenres Helping Other Genres

Best fiction and writing blogs

Jack London
The best fiction and writing blog posts from around the ‘net, all guaranteed to make you a literary adventurer. Compiled by jack.

Ed A. MurrayWhere I find my inspiration to write
Alicia GaileAdding Flavor To Your Characters
Lissa PelzerTop 5 Writing Tips
J. McSpaddenThe Word Magician, the Story Wizard
Melissa TriplettFinding and Organizing Your Story Ideas
Sonyo EstavilloFocusing on the right details
Didi OviattFocusing on content over word count
Jan M. FlynnAvoiding the Draft
Sy & JeiSy & Jei’s Five Writing Tips

Palahniuk and Pound on Showing, Not Telling

Chuck Palahniuk

While marinating ideas for my next writing project, I’ve been scrounging the web for articles on improving my prose, and I wanted to share one I thought was particularly good. It’s from bad boy Chuck Palahniuk, who’s on the warpath against what he dismisses as abstract “thought” verbs:

These include: Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use.

The list should also include: Loves and Hates.

And it should include: Is and Has, but we’ll get to those, later.

Until some time around Christmas, you can’t write: Kenny wondered if Monica didn’t like him going out at night…”

Instead, you’ll have to Un-pack that to something like: “The mornings after Kenny had stayed out, beyond the last bus, until he’d had to bum a ride or pay for a cab and got home to find Monica faking sleep, faking because she never slept that quiet, those mornings, she’d only put her own cup of coffee in the microwave. Never his.”

Instead of characters knowing anything, you must now present the details that allow the reader to know them. Instead of a character wanting something, you must now describe the thing so that the reader wants it.

In short, no more short-cuts. Only specific sensory detail: action, smell, taste, sound, and feeling.

Of all the arts, I think writing tends to veer toward the abstract and away from the concrete. After all, we’re working with words, which are abstract representations of ideas, emotions, and our experiences in the real world. Little wonder that every so often, writers have declared war on encroaching fuzziness in both poetry and prose.

The Imagist Poets of the early 20th century vowed “To use the language of common speech, but to employ always the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.”

Speaking of the Imagists, here’s an example of the artful use of the concrete from another bad boy of literature, Ezra Pound, from his “Cathay Translations,” his interpretation of the Chinese poet Rihaku:

The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance

The jeweled steps are already quite white with dew,
It is so late that the dew soaks my gauze stockings,
And I let down the crystal curtain
And watch the moon through the clear autumn.

Pound offered the following explanation:

Note.—Jewel stairs, therefore a palace. Grievance, therefore there is something to complain, of. Gauze stockings, therefore a court lady, not a servant who complains. Clear autumn, therefore he has no excuse on account of weather. Also she has come early, for the dew has not merely whitened the stairs, but has soaked her stockings. The poem is especially prized because she utters no direct reproach.

It’s a pleasure to read and re-read this short poem to discover the richness of the images and the emotional responses they trigger. Master poets know how to energize language to evoke experience in a condensed space. Similarly, a good prose writer packs more punch when he sheds clutter and focuses on the concrete.