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    Jeanine Walker and Early Writing Influences

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 5 comments
    Oct
    7

    TL;DR version: This week we welcome to the WriteByNight team our newest coach and consultant, Jeanine Walker. In her Q&A, Jeanine cites her ninth grade English teacher as a major influence. When asked about our influences, many of us will name writers we admire. But what about the people who impacted us at a young age? Let’s discuss below.

     

    If you’ve visited our Staff page recently you’ll have noted that we’ve hired a new writing coach and consultant, Jeanine Walker. Jeanine, who lives in Seattle, received a Ph.D. in creative writing at the University of Houston and runs writing workshops in and around Seattle.

    To learn more about Jeanine, take a peek at this Q&A. If you’re interested in working with Jeanine through one of our signature one-on-one services, contact us for a free consultation to discuss.

    What jumped out at me in Jeanine’s Q&A was her response when we asked about her writing influences. Most of us will immediately begin rattling off a list of writers we admire and perhaps have tried to emulate. And Jeanine does do that, eventually, naming writers such as Mary Gaitskill, Marie Howe, and Ruth Ozeki.

    But first she says this: “My 9th grade English teacher, Lloyd Sheaffer, was a huge influence. He read everything I brought to him to read outside of class for four years.” read more

    Who Wants to Publish Your Short Stuff?

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in The Submission Process     Comments 17 comments
    Sep
    30

    TL;DR version: We have a guest writer this week, Windy Lynn Harris, author of the new release Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work PublishedWindy has stopped by to share some of her wisdom on the topic, including where to find markets for your short work and how to match your writing to the right publications. In the comments section, she wants to hear about what you’re working on and what sort of target publications you have in mind.

     

    There’s plenty of information available about how to get a book published, but what about all of the other great things you write? What about those short stories and personal essays? Short pieces get published every single day of the week. How can you get in on the fun? One of the biggest hurdles for writers is answering the question: Who wants to publish a story like mine?

    Let’s start by looking at the whole market. Many types of magazines acquire short stories and essays, including literary, consumer, genre, and small-circulation magazines. Some newspapers print essays, especially travel and lifestyle essays. read more

    Tom’s a Good Farmer

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 6 comments
    Sep
    17

    TL;DR version: I’m in a bit of a weird place, geographically and psychologically. So I wrote a letter telling you about it. The point? I dunno. You never know where you’ll find inspiration? Even if you’re not writing, you can still be engendering future writing?

     

    For the past three days I’ve been in a county whose population barely cracks 18,000. Back home, I can see 18,000 people in a day without really trying. The town I’m staying in houses 5,000 of those 18,000, and is the only incorporated community in this county of 600 square miles. I’m staying at the nicest hotel in town. It’s a run-down Ramada, base rate $65/night, and is worth nearly every penny.

    There’s a bookstore in town. It doubles as a liquor store; you can come in and browse books while sipping a local beer. Weekdays it closes at 5:30 p.m.; weekends 6:00.

    The town’s restaurant guide offers a dozen options, including McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC/Taco Bell, the Kwik Trip filling station, and Subway.

    The 2010 census shows a population of about 5,200 people, 96.1% of whom are white. Agriculture makes up 49% of its economy. I was talking to a guy yesterday and he mentioned a successful area farmer. “Yeah, Tom’s a good farmer,” he said. I’d never before considered farming and talent level; that there are farmers good at farming and farmers bad at farming.

    My dad was born on a farm just outside of town. When he was zero years old, his family lost the farm. I guess maybe my grandfather wasn’t a talented farmer. read more

    Your Writing Fugue and You

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 10 comments
    Sep
    9

    TL;DR version: If you lose track of all time and space when you write, you’re not alone. It’s (unofficially) called a writing fugue, and it happens to many of us. WriteByNighter Joe C. worries that his writing fugues are a problem: he forgets to eat, forgets to move around, forgets to pee. If a writing fugue leads to better writing but some physical discomfort, is it worth it? It’s a question each fuguer must answer for him or herself.

     

    Lately we’ve all spent a lot of time discussing process, inspiration, where we write, how we write. What kind of headspace we need to get into in order to produce words.

    WriteByNighter Joe C. emailed to ask us about his process, in which he goes into a sort of trance when he writes, losing touch with both the world outside and with his own internal workings.

    “It’s almost self-destructive, what I do,” Joe writes. “Basically, I forget to do a fuckn’ thing. I have coffee [and start writing] … and then suddenly it’s 4 p.m., my back is stiff, and I realize I’ve been holding my bladder to the point of pain. I lose myself completely, and it happens all the time. … It’s weird.  My question is if you know of anyone who experiences this same behavior when they write.”

    Justine and I had a writing professor who refers to this as a “fugue state.” It’s not the actual dissociative disorder — don’t panic! — but it does resemble it in some ways.

    And it happens to me all the time. read more

    Getting Back into a Groove

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 21 comments
    Aug
    19

    TL;DR version: Help! I’ve fallen (out of my writing groove) and I can’t get up! After months of writing nearly every morning, and establishing a routine, I took two weeks off. Now that I’m trying to restart my routine, I’m finding that the words won’t come. When you fall off your routine, how do you get your groove back? Let me know in the comments below.

     

    For a number of reasons I shan’t bore you with, I haven’t written a word since August 1.

    For some of May and all of June and July, I’d been writing nearly every morning. I was in a groove and loving it. I established a pattern and stuck with it: roll out of bed, make coffee, go to the park, write by hand until satisfied (return home, pass out). I was beginning to see the finish line — far away on the horizon, but taking shape.

    Then I stopped. read more

    Oh, the Places You’ll Write!

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 14 comments
    Aug
    12

    TL;DR version: This week I’m wondering about the strangest place at/in which you’ve ever written. Where was it, how did it happen, did it work for you, and did you ever return? Spoiler alert: Mine is either in the middle of a graveyard or in the cereal aisle of a Charlestown, Massachusetts, grocery store. What’s yours? Let us know below.

     

    Sometimes inspiration comes in the most unlikely places. When that happens, are you prepared to pursue it?

    Like most writers, I have some go-to writing spots: two particular benches in Riverside Park; a favorite bar, dark and quiet during the day, darker and quieter at night; a specific seat at a specific Dunkin’ Donuts chain. The loft at my parents’ house. The Esplanade whenever I’m in Boston.

    These are places where I can sit still and write, while occasionally looking up to observe the things happening around me. read more

    (Family) Secrets Secrets Are No Fun…

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 18 comments
    Jul
    23

    TL;DR version: Writing about family without stepping on feelings can be difficult. But when authenticity is at stake, which is more important: Loyalty to the narrative or loyalty to your loved ones? This week I want to discuss if/when writers have the right to take private matters public, and if so, whether or not we should pull our punches. Then at the end of the post I offer you a chance to choose my own adventure for me. Because, help!

     

    When writing about your family and/or friends, how do you strike a balance between writing honestly and sparing the feelings of your subjects? Is it possible to be both authentic and considerate? Is it a simple matter of knowing when to pull your punches versus when to swing full force?

    Every week we get at least one email or call from a writer wondering how to write about family without inflicting severe emotional damage and/or sowing discord. This week, the query comes from… me! Because I’m up against it myself. And I wrote a sort of choose your own adventure, and I’m curious to see which option you folks would go with. Or have gone with, since I know a lot of you have already worked through this topic.

    In other words: Help! read more

    A Midsummer Night’s Writing Goals Check-In

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 17 comments
    Jul
    15

    TL;DR version: Now that we’re halfway through the year, it’s time to check in once again with our 2017 writing goals. Are you halfway, or more, toward your goal? Are you struggling, and if so, how can we help? Let us know in the comments below. And if you want to make a new goal, complete the following sentence: “In what’s left of 2017, I will________”

     

    OK, so we’re not quite to midsummer, and we’re a few weeks past Midsummer, but last week I realized that we’re about halfway through 2017. Because I’m a math genius. And being the caring, thoughtful, all-around swell math genius that I am, I began to wonder how your 2017 writing goals are going.

    Maybe you told us about them in January, when you completed the sentence that began “In 2017 I will________”

    And/or perhaps you updated them in April, the last time we checked in with you.

    Well now here it is July (gulp) and we’re just over halfway through the year (gulp), and so I think this is the perfect time to see where we stand. read more

    Writing Exercise: TALK!

    Posted Posted by David Duhr 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

    Adriana Cloud on Bad Poetry, Inspiration and Reading Everything

    Posted Posted by David Duhr 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?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr 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

    Posted Posted by David Duhr 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?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr 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

    Can We Learn Anything By Rereading Our Published or Abandoned Writing?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 8 comments
    Apr
    29

    TL;DR version: Why is rereading our own work so difficult? Or are you one of those lucky few who enjoy it? Can we learn about ourselves as writers by rereading our old writing? Try this exercise: reread something of yours you haven’t even thought of in years. Record your feelings as you read it. Then print out a new copy and attack it with a red pen. Explore your edits. Do they tell you anything about how you’ve changed as a writer? Report your experiences to us in the comments below!

     

    I have this teeny-tiny problem when it comes to rereading my old writing: I absolutely hate doing it. It hurts my brain and makes my stomach sour.

    Earlier this week I wrote the following in an email to a WriteByNighter: “Part of why I have trouble rereading anything after I publish it [is that] I always want to go back and rewrite certain passages, and I can’t do that anymore because it’s too late. It’s difficult for a writer not to want to tinker and tinker and tinker some more.”

    It’s as if I’m never satisfied with the final product. In fact, it’s as if I never even have a final product, but rather a product as it looks like when my deadline arrives. read more

    2017 Writing Goals Check-In: Mid-April

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 24 comments
    Apr
    15

    TL;DR version: Are you on pace to reach your 2017 writing goal(s), whether or not you made it public here? If so, congrats! Why not beat your chest about it in the comments section below? If not, why not? Is there anything any of us can do to help? And if you never did share your 2017 writing goal with us, it’s not too late! Simple finish this sentence in the comments section: “In 2017, I will ___________.”

     

    I don’t mean to hassle you or anything, but Tax Day is almost here, which reminds me that we’re more than one-third of the way through the year, which reminds me that it’s been a couple of months since we last checked in with each other about our 2017 writing goals.

    Gulp!

    OK, so right around New Year’s Day a whole lot of us made public writing resolutions by finishing the sentence “In 2017, I will…

    “…finish my second book,” Marcia S. said.

    “…write my first book and read 50 books….and make time for exercise,” wrote Sharon M. read more

    The Writer’s Hiatus: Why and How?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 14 comments
    Mar
    30

    TL;DR version: Do you take a hiatus from your WIP between drafts? Why or why not? During that hiatus, do you think about your WIP or do you try to erase it from your mind? How long should these hiati (yeah) last? Should you work on another writing project during a hiatus, or put the writing implements away? Share your thoughts below!

     

    I’m working with a fiction writer who has just finished the third draft of his book but is now taking a break — “going on hiatus,” he says — before beginning the fourth and final draft.

    (For more on drafting, and on swooping versus bashing, join last week’s super fun discussion.)

    It always sounds so appealing to me, this going on hiatus business. Part of it is the word itself. Perhaps simply because they both start with the same letter, and because I’m a simpleton, “hiatus” summons images of Hawaii. It also makes me think of Carl Hiaasen (hia, hia, simpleton), who for a while was my vacation reading.

    Also, according to Merriam-Webster.com, the word comes from a Latin verb, “hiare,” meaning “to yawn.” (Is this post making you hiare yet?)

    But of course it has since come to mean a gap or an interruption in an activity. And for many writers, a hiatus has become a standard step in the writing process.

    It goes something like this:

    1. Finish a draft.

    2. Put that draft in a drawer. (Literally and/or metaphorically.)

    3. Don’t work on it for [x] weeks/months.

    4. Pull it out, reread it, and have a nervous breakdown.

    Let’s take a look at this, step by step. read more

    Do You Swoop or Do You Bash?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 31 comments
    Mar
    25

    TL;DR version: Are you a swooper — a writer who races to the end of a draft — or a basher, a writer who sweats blood making sure that every line is perfect before moving on to the next? Does this tell you anything about yourself as a writer, or as a person?

     

    Last week we had cause to lightly touch on Kurt Vonnegut’s semi-famous division of writers into two categories: swoopers and bashers. So this week, let’s talk a little about this and see if we can learn anything.

    First the definitions. This comes from Timequake, KV’s last novel, and, I do believe, the first one of his I ever read. Before I immediately went right out and read them all, and then read most of them a second time, and a few of them a third, a fourth…

    “Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter anymore, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done, they’re done.” read more

    Poll: Your Favorite Writing- and Reading-Related Things

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 24 comments
    Mar
    18

    TL;DR version: This week I thought it would be fun to get to know each other by sharing some of our favorite writing- and reading-related things. What is your favorite novel; piece of writing advice; movie about a writer? Find those and more questions at the bottom of the post, and then answer ’em in the comments below. And don’t be afraid to reply to other people’s comments! Do you and someone else have the same favorite novel? Ask him/her what else he/she reads.

     

    Thanks in large part to our helpful discussion last week, as well as a Monday deadline for my writing group, I have been hard at work this week on my novel.

    Which, by the way, is called… well, I don’t know what it’s called. Some people say you should have a title before you start a project. Name a thing and it becomes a thing. But I know plenty of writers who will create a title only after the work is done. And that title often comes from the text. What do you think: title first, title last, or who cares?

    Point is, I’ve been writing so much fiction this week that I didn’t have time to write my blog post, which was called “How to Write More Fiction Without Sacrificing Your Blogging Duties.” (Title first!) read more

    Things I Did This Week Instead of Writing, Vol. 1

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 32 comments
    Mar
    10

    TL;DR version: I didn’t write this week. Here is a list of some of the stupid things I did instead. What’s your list of stupid things you did this week instead of write? Let us know in the comments below. Maybe a little public shaming can give us all a boost?

     

    I didn’t write this week.

    Usually when this happens I claim a lack of time. It’s so easy to say that, isn’t it? “I didn’t have time to write this week. Maybe next week.”

    This is not how books get written.

    The truth is, I had plenty of time this week to write. Outside of essential activities such as work, exercise, meals, sleep, and bathroom things, I had many open hours.

    I’ll have probably the same amount of open hours next week, and the week after. So I figured a little public self-shaming, and the prospect of future public self-shaming, might give me some motivation to change this pattern.

    Below is a list of things I did this week instead of write, and how I feel about them. read more

    Would You Rather: Process vs. Product

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 21 comments
    Mar
    4

    TL;DR version: What’s more important, the writing process or the finished product? Would you rather: Wake up one morning with a published book but no memory of writing it or experience the entire writing process but then burn your completed manuscript? Let us know your answer to these burning questions in the comments below. And thanks for reading (this summary)!

     

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about process versus product: which (if either) is more important, and by what percentage; can you have one without the other; would you even want to.

    Last week my therapist and I were discussing writing and she asked me, “Why do you want to publish a book?” The room went silent for several long and painful moments. It almost turned (even more) awkward (than usual). The only sound was the ticking meter. (I think that’s from a Woody Allen film, but I can’t remember. A free book goes to whoever can tell me what the hell I’m referencing.)

    Finally I said this: “I don’t know. I can tell you why I want to write a book, but I’m not sure I can tell you why I want to publish one.” read more




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