A Writer Will Go Anywhere

These are raw notes. Unedited. Unshaped. Bricks for a later construction I may or may not build. The scene is a coffee shop, but not the kind you think. This is Amsterdam. Narrow place. Two seats in the far corner of the bar. Bar top is polished steel and dark wood burnished with the soft […]

The Best Thing that Ever Happened to my Writing

A number of things have helped my writing along, but best thing that ever happened was to stop caring so much.  This came about gradually. In fact it took a couple of decades. Rejection hastened things along. “No. Sorry. I’m afraid I’m not the right for this.”  “You have me stumped; I can’t do a […]

How to Write a Compelling Narrator

The more interesting the story, the better we enjoy the person telling it to us, but an irresistible narrator is a big part of what we like in a story. Here are some key things that contribute to the creation of an unforgettable voice: 1. The compelling narrator is as complicated as any person you […]

The Problem with the Spotlight

Some people find the writing life faintly glamorous, which can spark well-meaning curiosity. But for me, the attention can be crippling. Steve Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics—which spawned a sequel, movie, radio show, and a full calendar of speaking engagements—also sees a downside. According to an interview with Dubner in newobserver.com: “‘It’s not like I’m even […]

A Thing for Nostalgia

Why did you call your book “Those Days,” I once asked writer Richard Critchfield, known for his narrative description of village life and disappearing times. He shrugged and said that “in those days” was the phrase he heard most in his interviews. It was what people wanted to talk about—the past, who they were, where […]

Prayer—or Plan?

There are those who will dispute this, and they have a point, but mostly I am a proponent of planning your story. Is it the only way to go? No. But ambitious projects—if they are to go smoothly from start to “the end”—benefit from planning. The better the plan, the better the project will go. […]

7 Questions on Memoir

Where should I start? You could start at the beginning, if you can find it. You could also take a more fool-proof approach and list your significant moments—forks in the road, times of change, the great highs and terrible lows—and start with any of these. Just write the scene. And then write another, and another. You […]

How to Write a Good Villain

What makes a good enemy, someone you love to hate? 1. A good enemy is a complex, nuanced character. Like all complicated people, a villain has streaks of good mixed in with all that bad. He is, in some way, vulnerable. Some people may sympathize with the villain. Some may even like him. 2. Ordinary […]

Do You Need to Know the Ending?

This is a “yes, but” situation. Yes: If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you chart a course to get there? A whole lot can happen in the middle, some of which might take you by surprise and affect the ending, but when you pull out your star charts, and man the ship’s […]

19 Reasons Why You’ll Never Finish

Spoken from my been-there, done-that, know-it-well life, here is what can complicate a nice, clean run to the finish: 1. Your brain has turned to gelatin. Your muscles are mush. Fatigue sets in. No energy, no writing. 2. Anything is easier than writing. The ironing. The kids. The vacuum. The correspondence. 3. Email and social […]

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