If you wanna be a writer you gotta be a reader. We likely all agree on that. But what kind of reader? It’s fun when a novel totally engages us. We get lost in it. It becomes, as John Champlin Gardner described, a “vivid and continuous and dream.’ We float along on the story. Let […]Read article
Books for (Lost) Boys
Several authors use the title “Lost Boys,” including Orson Scott Card and crime writer Faye Kellerman. But I want to talk about real lost boys–male tweens and teens in America who don’t read. Many grew up in book-free homes where the habit of reading was missing entirely. Others “hate” reading, though that’s often from fear […]Read article
Tolkien, Kerouac, and You
I wrote a full draft of my my most successful novel in three weeks. However, every novel is its own puzzle to solve, and it’s usually a mistake to hark back to the previous book (in this case, Memory Boy) when writing a new one. There are two very general approaches to writing a novel: […]Read article
Another Good Question About Your Novel
I often get letters from former writing students, or friends of friends who are working on a novel, or complete strangers who have read one of my books and are working on one of their own. Usually they have a central question about their writing project that they’re hung up on. I try to say […]Read article
Minding the (Reading) Gap
(Glasshouse Images/Alamy Photos) I recently kicked the hornet’s nest on Twitter. A Minnesota author I know posted a cover photo of her forthcoming young adult novel. I tweeted back, “Excellent!” Meaning, “Congrats. I hope it does well,” etc. All the stuff there’s no space to explain on Twitter. I also added, “But how can we […]Read article
A Question About Your Novel?
Why? For what reason are you writing it? The subject is no small matter. Freud maintained that we do things for one or more of five reasons: “honor, power, fame, riches, and the love of women.” (Let’s just say ‘love’.) None of these reasons are necessarily wrong-headed, but there are better ones. How about joy? […]Read article
Restarting Your Novel
Let’s say a good chunk of your novel is done. But then real life catches up with you. Family, work, health– any of the zillion reasons aligned against sustained, unbroken writing time. Or maybe you just need to set it aside. In the first draft you’ve’ve discovered some things that need more thought. Your plot […]Read article
When Is It Plagiarism?
Recently The New Yorker magazine ran an extended piece called “Unreliable Narrator” (February 11, 2019), in which it takes best-selling author Dan Mallory to task for (among other things) the close similarities of his new novel The Woman in the Window with Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train, not to say the film, Copy Cat, a thriller […]Read article
Too Much Plot? (Nerdy)
Question: when does too much plot overwhelm a good story? Answer: when a “twist” is needed for resolution. The plot twist is one of the many fiction techniques in your writer’ tool bag, but it’s one to be wary of. A twist can work splendidly. A twist fail spectacularly. A successful examples might be found […]Read article
“Don’t Make a Scene”
You’ve heard that line. Maybe it was a parent speaking to a child behaving badly. Maybe it was in a public place where a couple was working out a problem. One begs the other, “Please don’t make a scene!” Ah, but making a scene is exactly what we do in fiction writing. Scene-by-scene writing is […]Read article
The Courage To Write
At every writing workshop I teach, I learn something. Or relearn it. Recently with a group of twenty earnest adults in a small library room I was reminded of something I had forgotten: it take courage to write. Courage to put down the first sentence. Courage to keep going. Courage to share what you’ve written […]Read article
What’s Your Prose Style?
You’re a writer. So let’s get geeky and talk about sentences. Below in bold is one of mine. It’s about as long and weighty as mine get, but it’s for a nonfiction piece. I’ve been invited to contribute a chapter for an anthology centered on a fairly interesting (if geeky) question: where does the American […]Read article
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