So as you may have noticed, we took the summer off from our State Writing Resources series. (Because, come on, who is looking for writing resources in the summertime?) But, now that autumn (egads!) is on its way and school is heading back into session, it’s time we … sent … our State Writing Resources series heading … back … into session.
Ohio. An Iroquois word meaning “large river,” or thereabouts. We–or at least I–imagine Ohio as containing only two major cities, Cleveland and Cincy. But did you know that the state capital, Columbus, is bigger than the both of ‘em? And that Toledo almost matches Cleveland in population? Ohio is known as the Buckeye State, a buckeye being both a brand of tree as well as a brand of 300-pound lineman who kicks the piss out of my favorite college football team every season.
Ohio writing features a strong cast of characters, among them Sherwood Anderson, whose Winesburg, Ohio is–well, it’s a book I’ve never read, is what it is. Sorry. But another thing it is is (ugh) a short story cycle about a small Ohio town that reminded Anderson of his own. It’s supposed to be a stellar book. Also an Ohioan is Toni Morrison, whose Jazz, as many of you know, since I never shut up about it, is probably my favorite novel. Ambrose Bierce, who I believe is out there somewhere, alive, is from Ohio, and will someday return. Another great Ohioan: Erma Bombeck. And Donald Ray Pollock, whose Knockemstiff has been called a modern-day version of Winesburg, Ohio. And don’t forget James Thurber; we’ll touch on him in the list below.
For now, presented in no particular order, here are 15 Ohio writing resources, from conferences to local critique groups to literary magazines. If you are a buckeye or are planning to become one, these are some organizations you might want to take a peek at. read more
There’s a terrible saying out there: “Those who can’t write, edit.” I’ve never bought this for a minute, and, in fact, I’ve always looked at the one as informing the other, much like the way riding a road bike can make you a better mountain biker, or, in an even broader sense, how weightlifting can make you a better runner. It’s called cross-training, and guess what? You can even cross-train your brain.
This is what being on the editor’s side of the desk has taught me: Even if you are constantly reading someone else’s work, some part of you is forming your own personal aesthetic. Some part of you is picking up on what you like about this piece; what you don’t like about that one; what’s working and what isn’t in any given story.
Some of us take that one step further, and we try to either reproduce what we as editors like, or we aim to reproduce the emotion that the work evoked as we vetted it for our own publications. (Of the two, I’ve noticed that the former always comes earlier in a writer’s career; the latter, which is by far the more sophisticated of the two crafts, comes when one has more experience vetting what types of writing one likes to read.) read more
Sometime in the spring of 2007, when Justine and I shared a writing workshop at Emerson College, as well as a burgeoning friendship, we joked about someday opening a writing center together. The JGDDWC, she wanted to call it. I of course countered with the DDJGWC. My proposed plan, as I recall, was for Justine to run the workshops, do all the paperwork and bookkeeping, run the PR, advertising and marketing departments, and handle all custodial duties, while I would be tasked with helping myself to half (or so) of the profits.
The conversation eventually died out, but the relationship did not.
A couple of summers later we had left Boston behind and found ourselves in Stuart, Florida, working unfulfilling odd jobs and melting. I was sidelining as fiction editor at Fringe Magazine and Justine did some freelancing, but it wasn’t enough to scratch our literary itch. read more
Recently on the blog Justine laid down some truth on “How to Resolve a Character Arc.” Her main rule boils down to this: Satisfy your reader’s expectations. But character arc isn’t the only area in which a writer must satisfy expectations.
A few days ago we received the following question from an anonymous WriteByNighter:
“I am helping a friend by reading and reviewing her story. I’ve searched Google and editor’s blogs for an answer and can’t find anything to address my specific problem.
You see, my friend likes to mix first and third person. I see all kinds of people saying this is fine, but they usually assume the shift includes a head-hop as well. Problem is, my friend narrates in third and then when she wants to share the character’s thoughts, she switches to first, without adding in italics or a speech tag. It comes across as something like this:
Daniel smiled. I didn’t know clowns could be so much fun.
I’ve told her she should pick one or the other and stay consistent. Is this good advice or am I being overly picky?” read more
Recently we’ve chatted in this space about methods to help you start writing and methods to help you stop writing. Oh, but what about that meaty middle? A successful piece of writing, both fiction and non, depends on so many elements–setting, plot, character, detail, scene, pace, on and on and on.
Today we’ll take a look at one of those: character.
WriteByNighter Joe G. writes in with the following question: “I’m sure you agree that the Resolution of a character arc is difficult to get right. Any advice?” read more
In case you missed it, on Friday Firepole Marketing ran a blog post from our own Justine Tal Goldberg, “The Truth About Writer’s Block: Common Misconceptions, Causes, and Remedies That Actually Work.”
“Well, what the hell’s it about?” you might be wondering, because the title is so very vague. Well, the post is about writer’s block, and she discusses the common misconceptions, causes, and remedies for writer’s block that actually work. See, as an undergrad Justine had a serious case of the yips, during which she was “stuck, paralyzed, unable to commit even a single word to the page.”
But eventually she wrestled her way out of it–“The good news is, I overcame writer’s block and you can, too.”
The rest of the post covers a wide range of writer’s block root causes, symptoms, cures. If you’re struggling in any way to put words on the page, bookmark her post and use it as a reference.
And don’t forget to answer Justine’s questions at the end, either on the Firepole site or down below:
“How about you? Which common cause of writer’s block feels like yours? What remedies have you tried in the past? What will you try now? Let me know in the comments below.”
Recently we gave some tips on how to conquer your fear of writing. (Answer: By writing!) But writing itself is only half the battle–maybe even less than half. Likely you’ve heard the axiom “Writing is rewriting.” What this means is that the rewriting and revision stage is where most of the real work is done. But sometimes that work can drag on … and on, and on, and on. A question we hear often at WBN is, “When should I stop rewriting and move on?”
WriteByNighter Tammy G. is up against this problem:
“My first draft is 66,376 words in need of serious editing for perspective, pace and show don’t tell,” Tammy tells us. “I have rewritten chapter one four times. I believe I figured out how chapter one should look now, but I am procrastinating. The rewrite I have to do is like throwing the first three chapters in the air and watching the pages land everywhere. Undoing the work is scary even though I know it makes the story better. Is this normal?”
The short answer: Yes!
The longer answer: Yes, because … read more
- Finalist #1 in the Texas Observer short story contest, "Possibilities" by Yliana Gonzalez: http://t.co/qKG0x3SOVS
- After nearly ten weeks of intense battle, I have finally bested Don Quixote.
- "15 Ohio Writing Resources," incl. Kenyon Review, Ohio Poetry Association & Thurber House: http://t.co/59xFokjJ4L