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
Over at Life as a Human Justine wrote about a character who went from sitting beside her patiently, waiting for his turn (i.e. her writing time) to come along, to barging in on her everyday life, unheeded: “He tugged on my sleeve during conversations, rested on my knee at meals, and followed me into the shower (shocking, I know) … This character I once possessed had taken possession of me.”
For me, characters often take their sweet damn time to emerge, and their even sweeter damn time to act and speak. I try to move down the page, but my characters lag behind. I have to tug on their sleeves. Their dialogue comes slowly, their actions like molasses. read more
As I’ve written about again and again, this is the time of year when I revisit my favorite childhood book and one of my annual rereads, Johnny Tremain. I’m presently 50 pages into a 500-page novel, so I’m not sure I’m gonna get to Johnny on time. He’s still asleep in that little attic on Fish Street, waiting for those gulls to wake.
I got the chance to meet George Saunders last year, and he told me that the opening of Johnny Tremain has always stuck with him, in particular the fact that Esther Forbes doesn’t use a comma in her first line, which reads, “On rocky islands gulls woke.” So you see? Read Johnny Tremain, become a decorated short story writer.
Do you have a July 4th reading tradition? Do you have any other annual rereads? Do you have a July 4th [other type of] tradition?
Let us know below. We’re always curious to learn more about you fine writin’ folk.
And for a few more patriotic books, check out this post.
There’s a lot of talk out there about how to write better by mastering the essential elements of craft like plot, dialogue, and descriptive detail. These conversations are important. We should never stop learning.
But what about the crucial step that must come first? Before writing better, faster, stronger, there is being able to write at all.
WriteByNighter Lipehadah I. wrote in with this problem:
“I want to write, but don’t even know what to write, i don’t know which kind of novel will interest my audience, how to start or what to write about.”
I’m going to give it to you straight, Lipehadah. What I hear in your email is a whole lot of fear: fear of the unknown, fear of the reception of your work, fear of writing itself. The desire to write is there but the fear, the what-ifs, are overshadowing it. read more
“Everything that is written merely to please the author is worthless.”
– Blaise Pascal
Today’s writing prompt is simple: Reply to Blaise Pascal.
– A simple true/false response.
– Write about a time when you produced some writing intended “merely to please” yourself. Was it a worthless exercise?
– When you write, whom do you try to please?
Go get ‘em, writers! Don’t forget, you’re always welcome to email us your experience, or be bold and share with the whole group by leaving your results in the comments section below.
North Dakota, the “Peace Garden State”(?), the “Roughrider State”(?), the “Flickertail State”(?) is up next in our State Writing Resources series. Capital Bismarck, largest
movie city Fargo, according to Wikipedia “North Dakota is considered the least visited state.” Awesome! Theodore Roosevelt State Park (ahh, that’s where the roughrider thing comes in) is the state’s most-visited tourist attraction. But you know, I’ve heard from numerous sources that North Dakota is a pretty state to drive through. I believe it.
For a state with a population of not much over half a million, North Dakota writing boasts a pretty stellar lineup. Poet Thomas McGrath grew up there. Playwright Maxwell Anderson graduated high school in Jamestown–home of the world’s largest buffalo monument, which is called The World’s Largest Buffalo Monument. Pulitzer winner Louise Erdrich has some strong North Dakota ties. Chuck Klosterman grew up there and graduated from UND. William Gass! He was born in Fargo. Jennie Shortridge was born in Grand Forks. Western legend Louis L’Amour was born in Jamestown–home of the world’s largest buffa … well, etc.
Presented in no particular order, here are 10 North Dakota writing resources, from conferences to local critique groups to literary magazines. If you are a roughrider/peace gardener or are planning to become one, these are some organizations you might want to take a peek at. read more
Written by Houston transplant Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America made a lot of noise when it came out in early 2011. I read plenty about the book, but until now never cracked its spine.
Being somewhat near to Harlem as we are I’ve taken a couple of walks/subway rides to check out a few of the buildings and establishments Rhodes-Pitts writes about, which has been pretty cool. The version of the book I have also contains some black & white photos (perhaps they all do), so it’s been kind of like a scavenger hunt.
(Yes, OK, it’s a simple scavenger hunt; Rhodes-Pitts tells us directly where most of these buildings are.) (Point is, it’s been a cool experience.) read more