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
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.