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

    Literary Albatrosses: Books I can’t get rid of

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 8 comments
    Feb
    24

    While writing last week’s post on reading retention I scanned our bookshelves for titles to discuss and spotted some books that I’ve never read but have carted all over creation.

    The Autobiography of Mark Twain, for example, all 4.2 pounds of it, which I have packed four times now and never cracked open. From Florida to a different place in Florida to a different and worse place in Florida to Austin to New York, this giant book has come with me, spiking my moving costs (it almost needs its own box) and then collecting literary dust until I move again.

    I always manage to convince myself that, someday, I’ll read it. But when I finish a book and scan my shelves for the next, my eyes skip past this Twain monster every single time. It’s to the point where I am about 97.5 percent certain I’ll never read this book.

    But when it becomes time to pack up and move, I become more than 97.5 percent certain that I will.

    Do you do this too? What is it? read more

    Reading Retention: Forget the book; remember the experience

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 13 comments
    Feb
    17

    You know that feeling when you get to the end of a paragraph or page of whatever you’re reading and you realize you have no idea what you’ve just read?

    I have that problem all the time… with entire books. Because my reading retention is atrocious.

    I’m currently reading a book about Shakespeare, and over the weekend, while thinking about my terrible retention skills (and totally ignoring the words as I continued reading them), I suddenly felt a sort of defeatism that almost made me drop the book and walk away.

    If I’m not going to remember any of these facts and anecdotes, I thought, what’s the point of reading this book? Or any book?

    I’ve spent the week thinking about this. Here’s where I landed.

    read more

    Great Beginnings: A Childhood

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 12 comments
    Feb
    10

    Opening lines: So important, so difficult to get ’em just right. Doesn’t it sometimes feel like you spend more time on your first few sentences than you do on all other lines combined?

    But when it works, opening lines can grab a reader by the hair and drag him/her into the story in a ferocious way.

    That happened to me last week with Harry Crews‘ memoir A Childhood: The Biography of a Place.

    Down below I’ve typed out the book’s first paragraph. Read it once or twice, or more, and then let’s discuss in the comments below. I’ll talk with you about this paragraph all day, if you want. read more

    Micro Fiction Challenge: The Excellent Gimmick

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Micro Fiction Challenge     Comments 40 comments
    Feb
    3

    The day after publishing a post about the winter writing doldrums, I became this season’s flu victim No. 286,372,469, which means I’ve spent most of this week incapacitated, and am writing this during the daily twenty-seven-minute window where I don’t feel like a zombie.

    But just because I’m incapable of writing doesn’t mean we can’t do something fun. And I remember that it’s been a while since we dug into the sp*m vault and played some Micro Fiction Challenge.

    So that’s what we’re gonna do, friends! It’s another micro fiction contest based on the absurd comments caught by our vigilant sp*m filter! read more

    The Winter Writing Doldrums

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 19 comments
    Jan
    27

    I’ve been in the writing doldrums lately. Since before the holidays, I’ve had one, maybe two good writing sessions. My book is stalled.

    It’s not that I’m worried about it. I care enough about this project that I know I won’t abandon it.

    But I do wonder: Is it a seasonal thing? Am I a warm-weather writer? Maybe when I feel cooped up by the cold, with cabin fever closing in, my creativity freezes.

    We talk often about our favorite times of day for writing. “I write in the morning,” we’ll say, “when my mind is a blank slate, before the day’s garbage starts to pile up”; or, “Only at night, after I’ve waded through the day’s garbage, can I turn on my creativity and write.”

    But in the same way that time of day does, maybe time of year can influence our writing patterns and habits and productivity? read more

    Do Book Reviews Influence You?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 37 comments
    Jan
    20

    I have a friend (I know; shocking!) who is getting back into reviewing books after a nearly two-year layoff.

    He quit because he decided that nobody reads book reviews anymore, even in (or especially in?) major newspapers and magazines, and so all of the time and effort he puts into a review — for little to no pay — is pointless, because the review itself passes like a fart in the wind.

    He hasn’t changed his mind, but he’s giving it another chance mostly because he misses doing it.

    My own layoff has now exceeded two years. Sometimes I miss it. Reviewing is how I got my start writing professionally, so I’ll always have a soft spot for it.

    Still, it often did seem pointless.

    read more

    Your Favorite Passage

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 15 comments
    Jan
    12

    Have you ever written a line or a paragraph that’s so good, you almost wonder if it’s something you subconsciously memorized from a book someone else wrote? Someone far more talented and capable?

    It’s a wonderful feeling, to surprise yourself with your own talent. You always know it’s in there, somewhere, lurking, but you (being the self-doubting writer you are) aren’t often able to see it. Even when other people do!

    But then you bust out with a line that stops you in your tracks. Immediately it feels foreign. “I wrote that? But it’s so good.”

    Let’s take a look at some of those lines, together.

    In the comments below, paste or write out your favorite line or paragraph from your written work. One of those passages that made you realize, “Holy hell, I am a talented writer!” read more

    Your 2017 Accomplishments

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 6 comments
    Jan
    6

    Last week, at the very end of 2017, we asked you to look ahead and share with us your literary goals for 2018.

    (If you haven’t done so yet, you should! We’ll be checking back on these throughout the year.)

    But sometimes it feels, what with all of these “tell us your goals” posts we publish, that we don’t take enough time to acknowledge our accomplishments; to point to the goal we set weeks, months or years ago and say, “I did it. I hit that goal.”

    So now that we know your literary goals for 2018, we want to know: What did you accomplish in 2017? read more

    In 2018, You Will!

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 24 comments
    Dec
    30

    Call ’em resolutions, if you must; we prefer to stick with goals, or even simple desires.

    Either way, 2018 is almost here, and all of us want something out of writing and literature this year, be it to finish a major project, read x-amount of books or a particular writer’s entire output, or simply to become a better writer.

    Just like last year, we want to hear about your 2018 literary goals… in the form of a sentence-completion exercise.

    In as many or as few words as you’d like, complete the following sentence:

    “In 2018, I will ______________” read more

    Writing Exercises for Travel Delays

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 7 comments
    Dec
    22

    Today is my first day of Christmas vacation with the family, and my main task today was to pick up my sister from the airport at 2:30, a ninety-minute or so round trip. Which has now been scrapped, because her plane just taxied right back to the gate, and she’ll be spending the next four to six hours (if all goes well!) at the Austin airport.

    It’s hard to handle holiday travel with grace, even when your flights take off and land on time and without issues.

    If you’re stranded at the airport and feeling anxious, frustrated, or just plain old bored, you might try some writing exercises for a little bit of self-soothing.

    Here are three that I’ve tried in the past. Do you have your own? Share them with us below! read more

    Are You Writing? Week of 12.18.17

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Are You Writing?     Comments No comments
    Dec
    18

    What are you planning to accomplish this week? Share your literary goals in the comments below for some public accountability to help keep you on your path.

    Those goals can involve writing, editing, reading… whatever you’re hoping to get done between now and the end of the weekend.

    Did you reach the goals you set last week? Then brag about it! It’s a big deal!

    If you didn’t, do you know what went wrong, and how you can fix it? read more

    A Fine Bogey Tale

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 8 comments
    Dec
    15

    Another thing I learned in Scotland: When Robert Louis Stevenson is asleep, do not wake him.

    In my edition of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Peter Harness writes in the afterword that the story “came to Stevenson, almost fully-formed, in an opium-induced nightmare.”

    Of that night, his wife, Fanny, says, “I was awakened by cries of horror from Louis.” So she woke him… and he was furious. “Why did you wake me?” Stevenson shouted. “I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.

    That fine bogey tale became Jekyll & Hyde. He wrote the first draft in three days. Then he burned it! He wrote the next draft in six days, a rate of over 10,000 words per day. And of course he was sick as hell the whole time.

    I wonder how the story might have changed if he’d have slept through to the end of the nightmare? Might it have been even more frightening? read more

    Are You Writing? Week of 12.11.17

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Are You Writing?     Comments 4 comments
    Dec
    11

    What are your literary goals for this week?

    They can involve writing, editing, reading… whatever you want to accomplish, let us know below if you think a little public accountability might help.

    If you reached the goals you set last week, pat yourself on the back. If you didn’t, can you identify what went wrong, and how to fix it? Let us know in the comments below. read more

    What’s Your “Sad Waste of Brains”?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Finding Time to Write     Comments 8 comments
    Dec
    7

    Last week at the Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh an object and placard in the Sir Walter Scott section caught my eye: It was a chess set that belonged to Scott, and the accompanying text described the author’s view on chess.

    In essence, he understood the appeal of the game (he’d played it often as a young man), but why, he wondered, would someone spend so much time studying and practicing and playing it when he or she could use that time to instead learn a new language?

    Surely,” he said, “chess-playing is a sad waste of brains.”

    Good thing he didn’t live to see Hungry Hungry Hippos. read more

    Are You Writing? Week of 12.4.17

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Are You Writing?     Comments 3 comments
    Dec
    4

    What are your literary goals for this holiday week? They can involve writing, editing, reading… whatever you want to accomplish, let us know below for a little bit o’ public accountability.

    If you reached the goals you set last week, give yourself a pat on the back. If you didn’t, can you identify what went wrong, and how to get past it this week? Let us know in the comments below. read more

    You’re Never Too Old to Write

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 15 comments
    Nov
    30

    Annie Proulx, in her recent NBA acceptance speech, said this: “Although this award is for lifetime achievement, I didn’t start writing until I was fifty-eight, so if you’ve been thinking about it and putting it off, well…

    OK, so lots of trolls playing “Gotcha” point out that Proulx published stories in her thirties and a collection at fifty-three, and that she was fifty-six when her first novel came out.

    Who cares! Proulx’s point is, you’re never too old to start writing, and you’re never too old to find literary success, however you may define it. read more

    Are You Writing? Week of 11.27.17

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Are You Writing?     Comments 3 comments
    Nov
    27

    What are your literary goals for this coming week? They can involve writing, editing, reading… whatever you want to accomplish, let us know below for a little bit o’ public accountability.

    If you reached the goals you set last week, give yourself a pat on the back. If you didn’t, can you identify what went wrong, and how to get past it this week? Let us know in the comments below. read more

    Recommended Reading For Thanksgiving Travel

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN Story Club     Comments 13 comments
    Nov
    21

    Happy Thanksgiving, writers! Many of you will be on the move during this hellish travel week.

    If you’re hoping to write during your time away from home, or during your time at home that will include family/friends buzzing around (hopefully not like angry wasps), this post from 2016 offers strategies for writing on the go:Holidays, Family & Writing.”

    Maybe you’ve reached the end of your to-be-read stack of books and are looking for a new travel companion?

    In the comments section below, share with your fellow writers/readers your favorite books from 2017, and take a peek at everyone else’s if you’re in need of some good airplane/bus/train/car reading. read more

    Are You Writing? Week of 11.20.17

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Are You Writing?     Comments 3 comments
    Nov
    20

    What are your literary goals for this holiday week? They can involve writing, editing, reading… whatever you want to accomplish, let us know below for a little bit o’ public accountability.

    If you’re worried about getting derailed because of Thanksgiving travel plans, maybe you’ll find something helpful in this post that offers strategies for getting your writing done when surrounded by family: “Holidays, Family & Writing.

    If you reached the goals you set last week, give yourself a pat on the back. If you didn’t, can you identify what went wrong, and how to get past it this week? read more

    Meeting Your Favorite Writer

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 6 comments
    Nov
    16

    When Roald Dahl was six he begged his mother to take him to meet Beatrix Potter, author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

    Potter was eighty then, and working in her garden when the pair showed up. She asked what the lad wanted. Young Dahl said he’d come to see Beatrix Potter. Potter replied, “Well, you’ve seen her. Now buzz off.”

    Potter didn’t like children.

    Dahl spent a lifetime not liking adults. read more




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