As our American political system devolves toward a useless institution that pleases no one, American publishing may not be far behind. The New York Times recently spoke to the matter of publishing houses employing “sensitivity readers.” These are an extra layer of editorial scrutiny aiming to spot potentially offending language, allusions, metaphors, et al–anything that […]Read article
Everybody Wants You: Tips on Public Speaking
So I’m delivering serious remarks to a big crowd in a big ballroom at a Mariott Hotel in Minneapolis. It’s the Western Literature Association’s annual conference. I’ve practiced, timed myself, and the audience is with me. I’m building up to a feel-good ending that will both summarize the speech and send the crowd off thinking […]Read article
Reading Makes the Man (Or Boy)
How do angry young men become that way? What has gone wrong in their lives? One answer might be reading–or lack of it. The big American publishing houses have thrown in the towel on books for young men. Why? Because books for teen boys don’t sell. Boys don’t buy books. Boys don’t go to mall […]Read article
The Deep Conspiracy Against Your Novel
It’s time to admit what you know in your bones: there’s a deep conspiracy against you finishing your novel. The conspiracy is all-encompassing. It’s like gravity, invisible but with the same confining effects. You can feel its weight, feel its drag, and it comes from all directions. A sick pet. A car that needs an […]Read article
Is There Anybody Out There?
Authors always wonder if we’re making connection. Here’s a sweet letter from a reader: “Hi! A couple months ago I came across your short fiction story “Dispersal” inside a collection of short fiction from the Midwest. I absolute loved the feelings i got from “Dispersal”. I had a question for you. I’m writing a paper […]Read article
Is There a Next Generation of Readers?
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recently published a study on reading. It confirms what most teachers and librarians already know. Kids read less and less. The stats show a particularly alarming drop among teenagers. They spend more time on the internet and less time with the printed word (duh). Dana Gioia, the NEA […]Read article
Make Me Hungry: Writing Good Description
When it comes to writing description the first question is simple: Is there enough? Too much? The goal is have just enough crisp, clear description in order to set the scene in the reader’s head–so they can “see it.” Ah, but you’re not done. Yes we need to see, but we also need to hear, […]Read article
Edgar Allan Poe Was Not Crazy
If you don’t have time to read novels, why not short stories? The really good kind. Fiction, as Poe advised, “that can be read in one sitting.” That was his definition of the short story form. And it’s a still a good one. A great place to find good short stories in is the yearly […]Read article
Power Reading for Better Writing
“If you want to be a writer, you gotta be a reader,” someone (me) once said. But who has the time to do both? Here’s a solution that works for me. When I’m stuck on a novel–frozen up, blocked, or otherwise suffering a complete loss of confidence –I get my ass to a library. Preferably […]Read article
Right now is perhaps the worst time in my memory for publishing a novel. That is, for a mainstream print publisher to pay you and produce a print version of your novel. The “Big Six publishers” in New York City are offering fewer print titles and paying their best-selling authors more. This leaves crumbs for […]Read article
Reader Needs Exposition–Stat!
Your reader at some point needs facts, background, and foundational material. In the writing biz we call this Exposition in fiction. The trick is to weave exposition into your ongoing narration in a smooth, even sly way. Let’ call that “on the fly.” Slipping in crucial information without losing your story line. Let’s look at […]Read article
My Novel Is A Mess!
Well, let’s look on the bright side. At least you have one. Or part of one. Most would-be writers only think about writing a novel, but you’ve actually done it. Sort of. Which is why you’re freaking out right now? As in, “Where do I go from here?” As in, “I’m totally lost!” As in, […]Read article
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