• Writing Exercise: TALK!

    By on June 24, 2017 Posted 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

    By on June 17, 2017 Posted 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

    By on June 9, 2017 Posted 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?

    By on June 3, 2017 Posted 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

    By on May 27, 2017 Posted 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?

    By on May 20, 2017 Posted 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

    By on May 7, 2017 Posted 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


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