Category Archives: Writing

High and Low Audiences

For reasons I won’t get into here, I’m writing an article about Shakespeare for my local newspaper. I interviewed a professor who has a course through the Great Courses on understanding Shakespeare, and he said that one of the great things about Shakespeare is that he was writing for everyone, from the groundlings who paid a penny to get in and are just there for the bawdy jokes and the most sophisticated viewers who want to grapple with the philosophical questions.

I thought that was just terrific, and the missing piece of our recent genre/literary discussion. That’s what you want to do, right? To write a book that appeals on a visceral, entertaining level but that also holds up to careful study? Here’s a great story:  Continue reading

Stewart O’Nan, “Finding Time to Write”

Do you all know Stewart O’Nan? He’s an interesting, under-discussed writer. Here’s a cool essay he wrote about finding time to write. An excerpt:

How do you do it? How do you keep the work rolling while you’re working, say, at engineering? I was in test engineering, which is feast or famine, so I’d be working seven days a week, 12 hours a day. And I also commuted an hour to work. And had a family. And somehow I had to keep the work rolling.

Very simple things like keeping the manuscript with you at all times. Always keep it with you. That way you can always go back to it. Doesn’t have to be the whole manuscript.


What is it all for? On faith and fiction

Faith isn’t brought up much in the writing workshops — or at least any writing workshop I’ve been around. Maybe it’s just my South Carolina upbringing, O’Connor’s “Christ-haunted South,” but I think there’s a really deep connection between “faith” and “fiction,” one even the most secular writers could agree on.

Faith and Your Career

First, you’ve got to be somewhat stupid to be a fiction writer.  Continue reading

Why is writing special?

Cathy Day’s latest blog post is about time and why she can’t help every stray would-be writer who calls her. She has a wealth of online and social media resources, she says, but she has to draw a line somewhere, because she’s experiencing information overload.

When she posted this on Facebook, one of her friends said it reminded her of this NSFW post about why a screenwriter won’t read your script — in short, because he doesn’t have time, he has other obligations, and because your script probably isn’t any good and he doesn’t want to be the one to tell you.

Question: Why is writing so special? You can make fun of someone for being bad at math, but if you critique someone’s writing (or speech), it crushes their spirit. Is it because language makes us human, so by critiquing someone’s language, you’re critiquing their humanity?

Admissions of a Serial First-Drafter

I have an admission to make. I am a serial first-drafter. In ten years of writing, I don’t think I’ve ever truly revised a story. I’m not even sure I know how.

Let me be clear: this is not because I refuse to admit the shortcomings of my stories. I have a stack of twenty or so unsubmitted pieces, and fifteen of them should stay that way. About five are strong, funny, mostly-successful stories that I am proud of, but which suffer from some glaring problem, a flaw that would either keep them from being published anywhere good, or would embarrass me if they were published. This story has a flat scene three-quarters of the way through. This one has an ending that’s just too easy. This one starts so damn strong and then loses its way.

“Send me some of your new work,” my buddy says. “You should submit your stories to journals, honey,” says my mother.

I would, dude. I want to, mom. But they’re not ready yet. And I’m starting to wonder if I know how to make them ready. Continue reading

Fiction Writing Prompt

FinalCoverThis morning I finished reading Michel Stone’s The Iguana Tree, an excellent novel that I might write more about soon. I found this essay by the author, where she offers the original writing prompt that inspired the short story that eventually became her first novel.

It’s a great prompt, and one I think anyone struggling to start a new piece would enjoy. To begin with, write a paragraph about an object you know intimately. (Stone wrote about the rocking chair in her daughter’s nursery.)

Go ahead and write that paragraph, and I’ll give you part 2 below the fold.  Continue reading