novel & fiction

The Courage to be Specific in Writing

The Courage to be Specific in Writing

Humans are full of paradoxes. We only love to the extent that we hate. We are constantly changing our minds, constantly renegotiating with ourselves and others. To be specific is to be curious about...
Character Transformation

Character Transformation

A fundamental understanding of transformation is crucial to having anything more than an intellectual relationship to structure. You’ve probably read books on three-act-structure. But it is...
The Desire to Write

The Desire to Write

Whether it is conscious or not, the desire to write is connected to the desire to evolve, to untangle the lie that we have been carrying around about ourselves for a million years. The lie is that we...
Building a Body of Work

Building a Body of Work

I remember one day over twenty years ago when I was bellyaching to a friend of mine about how nobody was buying my work. He looked me dead in the eye. “What’s your job?” he asked. “To sell my work.”...
Your Writing Process is Valid

Your Writing Process is Valid

Every writer has their own way of working, a process that has to be developed and honed over many years. Margaret Atwood starts with a rough notion of how the story will develop, “which usually...
Ten Suggestions for Writing

Ten Suggestions for Writing

Below are ten writing suggestions for anyone who is setting out to craft a novel, memoir, or screenplay. Some are obvious, while others are perhaps less so. 1) Write everyday. No matter what. The...
The Protagonist's Experience

The Protagonist’s Experience

Regardless of the medium, your reader is not interested in what your character is feeling. Seriously. In fact, if you tell your reader that Bill felt sad, dejected, elated, euphoric, or glum, your...
Stay Curious

Stay Curious

“The curious are always in some danger. If you are curious, you might never come home.” – Jeanette Winterson When my son was three years old, he was Captain Hook for Halloween. It was...
No Dilemma No Story

No Dilemma, No Story

One thing that has been coming up a lot in my classes is the tendency for writers to “figure out” their plot. This is due, at least in part, to story structure being taught by story analysts as a...
Becoming a Professional Writer

Becoming a Professional Writer

The publishing industry has undergone tremendous changes over the years. “Mid-list” writers who relied on decent advances from their publishers have found themselves shut out of the big publishing...
The Creative Process

The Creative Process

When my son, Ray, was first learning to speak, there were so many new words each day — the syntax often fascinating and occasionally perverse. He also had a sophisticated sense of humor. He called his...
Sell Your Novel to the Movies

Sell Your Novel to the Movies

When I did a book tour for my first novel, someone asked, “Have you sold the film rights?” And when I said yes, there was this gasp, like I’d been showered with pixie dust because Hollywood wanted my...
Weights & Measures

Weights & Measures

Proximity Do our characters have to be two thousand miles apart, or three miles apart? If we are trying to convey a sense of distance, remember that distance is relative. Let’s say that our...
Setting Up the Argument

Setting Up the Argument

Story is an argument. The theme (or dramatic question) is the thesis statement, and the story is the argument played out. Any argument requires opposing forces. These forces manifest as our...
Dilemma: The Source of Our Story

Dilemma: The Source of Our Story

At the heart of every story lies a dilemma. It is not a question of whether or not our protagonist has a dilemma, but rather, how effectively it has been explored. By exploring our protagonist’s...
No Good Guys, No Bad Guys

No Good Guys, No Bad Guys

I think there are times, as a storyteller, that I can be so bull-headed about what I want to express, that I end up pushing an agenda rather than telling a story.  I create “good guys and bad...
Writing the Forbidden

Writing the Forbidden

“Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are so ingrained in our society we rarely stop to think about it. I can write anything I want – dark fiendish plots without fear. I can criticize the FBI...
Backstory

Backstory

“The past is prologue.” – William Shakespeare When we are stuck, it is inevitably because some part of our backstory is unclear. Backstory refers to what happened before our story...

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