• Browsing all articles by David Duhr | WriteByNight Writers' Service

    Getting Back into a Groove

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 19 comments
    Aug
    19

    TL;DR version: Help! I’ve fallen (out of my writing groove) and I can’t get up! After months of writing nearly every morning, and establishing a routine, I took two weeks off. Now that I’m trying to restart my routine, I’m finding that the words won’t come. When you fall off your routine, how do you get your groove back? Let me know in the comments below.

     

    For a number of reasons I shan’t bore you with, I haven’t written a word since August 1.

    For some of May and all of June and July, I’d been writing nearly every morning. I was in a groove and loving it. I established a pattern and stuck with it: roll out of bed, make coffee, go to the park, write by hand until satisfied (return home, pass out). I was beginning to see the finish line — far away on the horizon, but taking shape.

    Then I stopped. read more

    Oh, the Places You’ll Write!

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 14 comments
    Aug
    12

    TL;DR version: This week I’m wondering about the strangest place at/in which you’ve ever written. Where was it, how did it happen, did it work for you, and did you ever return? Spoiler alert: Mine is either in the middle of a graveyard or in the cereal aisle of a Charlestown, Massachusetts, grocery store. What’s yours? Let us know below.

     

    Sometimes inspiration comes in the most unlikely places. When that happens, are you prepared to pursue it?

    Like most writers, I have some go-to writing spots: two particular benches in Riverside Park; a favorite bar, dark and quiet during the day, darker and quieter at night; a specific seat at a specific Dunkin’ Donuts chain. The loft at my parents’ house. The Esplanade whenever I’m in Boston.

    These are places where I can sit still and write, while occasionally looking up to observe the things happening around me. read more

    Great Endings: Yours!

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 22 comments
    Aug
    5

    TL;DR version: As a bookend to our “Great Beginnings: Yours!” post, we invite you to leave in the comments section the last line or lines or your work-in-progress. No context or explanation; just the words. And if you do so, it would be swell if you’d also provide feedback on another’s last lines. Go on and help a fellow writer out!

     

    Late last year we asked volunteers to share the opening line of their WIPs for some group feedback in a post called “Great Beginnings: Yours!” Over thirty of you did so, and it led to some pleasant conversation and fun reading.

    By now some of you have surely finished those WIPs, and so let’s skip ahead… all the way to the end. read more

    (Family) Secrets Secrets Are No Fun…

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 17 comments
    Jul
    23

    TL;DR version: Writing about family without stepping on feelings can be difficult. But when authenticity is at stake, which is more important: Loyalty to the narrative or loyalty to your loved ones? This week I want to discuss if/when writers have the right to take private matters public, and if so, whether or not we should pull our punches. Then at the end of the post I offer you a chance to choose my own adventure for me. Because, help!

     

    When writing about your family and/or friends, how do you strike a balance between writing honestly and sparing the feelings of your subjects? Is it possible to be both authentic and considerate? Is it a simple matter of knowing when to pull your punches versus when to swing full force?

    Every week we get at least one email or call from a writer wondering how to write about family without inflicting severe emotional damage and/or sowing discord. This week, the query comes from… me! Because I’m up against it myself. And I wrote a sort of choose your own adventure, and I’m curious to see which option you folks would go with. Or have gone with, since I know a lot of you have already worked through this topic.

    In other words: Help! read more

    A Midsummer Night’s Writing Goals Check-In

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 17 comments
    Jul
    15

    TL;DR version: Now that we’re halfway through the year, it’s time to check in once again with our 2017 writing goals. Are you halfway, or more, toward your goal? Are you struggling, and if so, how can we help? Let us know in the comments below. And if you want to make a new goal, complete the following sentence: “In what’s left of 2017, I will________”

     

    OK, so we’re not quite to midsummer, and we’re a few weeks past Midsummer, but last week I realized that we’re about halfway through 2017. Because I’m a math genius. And being the caring, thoughtful, all-around swell math genius that I am, I began to wonder how your 2017 writing goals are going.

    Maybe you told us about them in January, when you completed the sentence that began “In 2017 I will________”

    And/or perhaps you updated them in April, the last time we checked in with you.

    Well now here it is July (gulp) and we’re just over halfway through the year (gulp), and so I think this is the perfect time to see where we stand. read more

    The Texas Observer Short Story Contest

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments No comments
    Jul
    8

    I don’t have much to tell you about this week. I’ve been plugging away at my own project, and also helping put together the Texas Observer short story contest, our seventh year running. The winning writer gets $1,000 and publication in the Observer‘s October issue, as well as online. Finalists will also be eligible for online publication.

    This year’s guest judge is Deb Olin Unferth, author of four books and presently a creative writing professor at UT-Austin. Her recent story collection, Wait Till You See Me Dance, has gotten rave reviews from all corners.

    Deb tells us, “In short fiction I look for a voice that feels original, clear and urgent, and for a situation under pressure.”

    So keep that in mind, if you choose to enter. read more

    Q&A With Joe Giordano

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments 14 comments
    Jul
    1

    Today we’re pleased to run a Q&A with Austin author Joe Giordano, whose latest novel, Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller, was released June 15 by Harvard Square Editions.

    We talked with Joe about the long road to publication, the publication process, and how it feels to release a new book out into the world.

    After the interview, check out Joe’s bio as well as some links to his work.

    Any questions for Joe? Leave ’em in the comments section below and we’ll see if we can’t bring him back here to provide some answers.

     

     

    WriteByNight: Can you give us some background on your career as a writer? How you got started, how long you’ve been at it, a bit about your publishing history?

    Joe Giordano: One of the positions I held before I became a writer was to run a business in Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa out of Athens. I developed a deep sense of history and the desire to write an historical fiction about the Ancient Greek-Persian Wars. Thirteen years ago, I tackled the task. My prose was terrible; I needed to learn how to write. read more

    Writing Exercise: TALK!

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments No comments
    Jun
    24

    TL;DR version: This just in: People like to talk about themselves! That’s why this week’s writing exercise is to  conduct an in-person interview with anyone of your choice — family member, co-worker, stranger — and then write: a summary of the experience; a letter on the interviewee’s behalf to a new pen pal; or whatever you want, really. And let us know the results in the comments below.

     

    I’ve been working on a new writing project that includes oral interviews with a variety of people. And do you know what I’ve discovered? People like to talk about themselves!

    Astonishing, right?

    But here’s something that actually has been a surprise: In nearly every interview I’ve done so far, the subject has talked about something unrelated to the topic at hand but equally, if not more, interesting. read more

    June Story Club: A Crooked Still Life

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN Story Club     Comments 11 comments
    Jun
    17

    TL;DR version: Our second selection for the WBN Story Club is Margaret Malone’s essay ”A Crooked Still Life.” What follows is a bunch of gobbledygook about why I picked it, and then some instructions on how to participate. If you want to skip all of that, the link to the story is at the end of the post. Enjoy!

     

    Great work, story clubbers, in discussing our first entry, Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain.” I think we did it justice. (They is, they is.)

    This month let’s do similar justice to a piece of nonfiction from an Oregon writer, Margaret Malone, which comes courtesy of a recommendation from WBNer Steve C.

    “A Crooked Still Life” was published in November 2013 by Oregon Humanities. It tracks Malone and her husband’s journey from Oregon to Boston, where he undergoes proton beam therapy to remove what remains of a tumor behind his left eye. read more

    Adriana Cloud on Bad Poetry, Inspiration and Reading Everything

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 10 comments
    Jun
    9

    TL;DR version: We’ve hired another talented writing consultant, London’s very own Adriana Cloud. In her Q&A, Adriana talks about bad high school poetry, writing through a lack of inspiration, and reading outside of the genre you’re working in. These are the things I want us to discuss this week. See the bolded “Your turn” sections for discussion questions.

     

    As you will have noticed if you regularly look for updates to our website — which, why wouldn’t you?! — we’ve taken on yet another talented writing consultant, Adriana Cloud. Adriana lives in London but received her M.F.A. at Emerson College in Boston, where she also worked for Harvard University Press and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her chapbook is titled Instructions for Building a Wind Chime.

    Today I want us to discuss a few topics drawn from Adriana’s Q&A, which you can read here. read more

    Does Every Book Have a Lesson?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 20 comments
    Jun
    3

    TL;DR version: Is “reading like a writer” really a thing? Charles Baxter kinda/sorta says “Eh, not really”; Stephen King says every book has a lesson. What say you? This week in the comments below, I want us to discuss this concept of reading like a writer and how — if at all — you do it.

     

    Here at WriteByNight we’ve always been proponents of the idea of reading like a writer; of using reading as a tool to help us grow as writers, through learning what to do and what not to do, learning what works and what doesn’t work.

    But a recent interview with one of our favorite story writers, Charles Baxter, got me wondering if I actually do read like a writer, or if I just pay lip service to the idea.

    In the September 2016 issue of The Writer’s Chronicle, Baxter is asked to talk about what he has learned from some of his favorite writers.

    “This is a very American question,” he says, “with pragmatist assumptions. What do you ‘learn’ from your reading? In my case, sometimes nothing. Fiction doesn’t typically yield up lessons or tools for me. I know, I know: when we’re reading like writers, we’re always supposed to be learning something, but I’d rather just be taken away to Storyland.” read more

    One True Sentence

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 24 comments
    May
    27

    TL;DR version: WriteByNight’s newest writing consultant and coach, Robert McDowell, tells us that his favorite piece of writing wisdom comes from Ernest Hemingway, who wrote, “Write one true sentence.” But what does that mean? And how do we do it? That’s what I want to find out, from you. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

     

    In our continuing effort to provide you the best match possible for our one-on-one writers’ services, we’ve taken on a new writing consultant and coach, Robert McDowell. Robert served as an editor at Story Line Press for twenty-two years, and for ten years he co-edited the literary journal The Reaper. He’s also the author, co-author, translator and editor of four E-books and fifteen print books.

    In Robert’s Q&A, which you can (and should!) read here, he cites a famous line by Ernest Hemingway as his favorite piece of writing advice: “Write one true sentence.”

    But what does that mean? read more

    Are Your Fictional Characters Based on Real People?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 18 comments
    May
    20

    TL;DR version: I’m writing a novel with characters based on real people I hadn’t seen in decades. Then I saw them. It was weird. So this week I’m wondering: Do you base your fictional characters on real people? What are the benefits, what are the pitfalls? What tactics do you use to observe the people around you, and how do you translate those observations to the page? Let us know in the comments below.

     

    I’m writing a novel about a group of former co-workers of mine from the late-’90s. These are people I haven’t seen in nearly two decades. At least three of them have died.

    But when I write, I can close my eyes and envision their manners of speech, their physical attributes. I ask myself, “What would [name of the real person] do or say in this situation?” Sometimes the answer to that is appropriate for the fictional scene, sometimes it’s not. But even when it’s not, that train of thought usually leads me to the right station.

    It seems to help me move forward, basing my characters on real people and then slightly altering the details.

    For the moment, I’m even using their real names. read more

    Bullet in the Brain

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN Story Club     Comments 18 comments
    May
    7

    TL;DR version: Our first selection for the WBN Story Club is Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain.” What follows is a bunch of gobbledygook about why I picked it. To skip all that and read about the story club process, scroll down to “Logistics.” To skip all that and just read the story and join the discussion, scroll down to the section titled “The Story.”

     

    The thing to remember about best-laid plans is that I’m a real dum-dum. Twice this week I read through and took notes on my inaugural selection for the WBN Story Club, Stuart Dybek’s “Hot Ice,” a wonderful story that I was prepared to talk about for weeks or even months — a story that is, as I learned only last night, not available online.

    In the immortal word of Rick Perry, oops.

    In fact, none of the stories from The Coast of Chicago are available online. (Legitimately, that is; I did find some of them at one of those sketchy Russian sites that illegally reproduces copyrighted material.)

    Sorry, Dybekkers, but you’ll have to wait. read more

    Can We Learn Anything By Rereading Our Published or Abandoned Writing?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 8 comments
    Apr
    29

    TL;DR version: Why is rereading our own work so difficult? Or are you one of those lucky few who enjoy it? Can we learn about ourselves as writers by rereading our old writing? Try this exercise: reread something of yours you haven’t even thought of in years. Record your feelings as you read it. Then print out a new copy and attack it with a red pen. Explore your edits. Do they tell you anything about how you’ve changed as a writer? Report your experiences to us in the comments below!

     

    I have this teeny-tiny problem when it comes to rereading my old writing: I absolutely hate doing it. It hurts my brain and makes my stomach sour.

    Earlier this week I wrote the following in an email to a WriteByNighter: “Part of why I have trouble rereading anything after I publish it [is that] I always want to go back and rewrite certain passages, and I can’t do that anymore because it’s too late. It’s difficult for a writer not to want to tinker and tinker and tinker some more.”

    It’s as if I’m never satisfied with the final product. In fact, it’s as if I never even have a final product, but rather a product as it looks like when my deadline arrives. read more

    Micro Fiction Challenge: Fun with Sp*m

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Micro Fiction Challenge     Comments 45 comments
    Apr
    22

    TL;DR version: In this new Micro Fiction Challenge, we’ve bumped the word count to fifty(!) and are offering multiple prompts, rather than just one funky word. Using as your opening one of the five sp*m comments below, write a fifty-word or shorter story. Multiple prizes are up for grabs. Type or paste your story in the comments.

     

    I didn’t write much this week. It happens. I was even going to do another “Things I Did This Week Instead of Write,” so that those of you who also didn’t write would have a place to safely say so and tell us why.

    But I figure even better than that is to offer something to write, something low pressure, in case you’re just looking for any excuse, an exercise or prompt.

    And we’re due for a Micro Fiction Challenge anyway. read more

    2017 Writing Goals Check-In: Mid-April

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 24 comments
    Apr
    15

    TL;DR version: Are you on pace to reach your 2017 writing goal(s), whether or not you made it public here? If so, congrats! Why not beat your chest about it in the comments section below? If not, why not? Is there anything any of us can do to help? And if you never did share your 2017 writing goal with us, it’s not too late! Simple finish this sentence in the comments section: “In 2017, I will ___________.”

     

    I don’t mean to hassle you or anything, but Tax Day is almost here, which reminds me that we’re more than one-third of the way through the year, which reminds me that it’s been a couple of months since we last checked in with each other about our 2017 writing goals.

    Gulp!

    OK, so right around New Year’s Day a whole lot of us made public writing resolutions by finishing the sentence “In 2017, I will…

    “…finish my second book,” Marcia S. said.

    “…write my first book and read 50 books….and make time for exercise,” wrote Sharon M. read more

    The WBN Story Club Returns! (Maybe)

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments 44 comments
    Apr
    8

    TL;DR version: If you’re interested in being a member of the WBN story club, read on! If you’re not, well, there ain’t much point in you reading on. Here’s what I’m looking for input on: What kinds of stories should we read? Is one story and discussion per month a casual enough pace? What would you be looking to get out of such a club? Let us know in the comments below. If you don’t have any input but are interested in joining the club, just leave a comment saying “In.”

     

    A couple of weeks ago, when I asked to hear about your favorite books and favorite movies about writers and such, I also extended the idea of reviving the years-dormant WBN Book Club, resurrecting it as a short story club instead.

    A few of you expressed interest, with a desire to learn more before committing.

    So what follows is what I envision for this story club. I’d also very much like to get your input and ideas, because this will be a group thing. (Kinky.)

    If enough of you are interested in this idea, we’ll give ‘er a whirl.

    If you don’t have any ideas on any of this, but you want to be involved, simply comment “In.” read more

    The Writer’s Hiatus: Why and How?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 14 comments
    Mar
    30

    TL;DR version: Do you take a hiatus from your WIP between drafts? Why or why not? During that hiatus, do you think about your WIP or do you try to erase it from your mind? How long should these hiati (yeah) last? Should you work on another writing project during a hiatus, or put the writing implements away? Share your thoughts below!

     

    I’m working with a fiction writer who has just finished the third draft of his book but is now taking a break — “going on hiatus,” he says — before beginning the fourth and final draft.

    (For more on drafting, and on swooping versus bashing, join last week’s super fun discussion.)

    It always sounds so appealing to me, this going on hiatus business. Part of it is the word itself. Perhaps simply because they both start with the same letter, and because I’m a simpleton, “hiatus” summons images of Hawaii. It also makes me think of Carl Hiaasen (hia, hia, simpleton), who for a while was my vacation reading.

    Also, according to Merriam-Webster.com, the word comes from a Latin verb, “hiare,” meaning “to yawn.” (Is this post making you hiare yet?)

    But of course it has since come to mean a gap or an interruption in an activity. And for many writers, a hiatus has become a standard step in the writing process.

    It goes something like this:

    1. Finish a draft.

    2. Put that draft in a drawer. (Literally and/or metaphorically.)

    3. Don’t work on it for [x] weeks/months.

    4. Pull it out, reread it, and have a nervous breakdown.

    Let’s take a look at this, step by step. read more

    Do You Swoop or Do You Bash?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 31 comments
    Mar
    25

    TL;DR version: Are you a swooper — a writer who races to the end of a draft — or a basher, a writer who sweats blood making sure that every line is perfect before moving on to the next? Does this tell you anything about yourself as a writer, or as a person?

     

    Last week we had cause to lightly touch on Kurt Vonnegut’s semi-famous division of writers into two categories: swoopers and bashers. So this week, let’s talk a little about this and see if we can learn anything.

    First the definitions. This comes from Timequake, KV’s last novel, and, I do believe, the first one of his I ever read. Before I immediately went right out and read them all, and then read most of them a second time, and a few of them a third, a fourth…

    “Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter anymore, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done, they’re done.” read more




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