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    A Compenduhrum of Writing Wisdom, Vol. 1

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 18 comments

    interview-905535__340I have this silly fantasy project in which I would read every single Paris Review interview ever done and compile all of my favorite responses into a rich compendium of writer wisdom and inspiration.

    I’d keep this compendium on my desk and reference it whenever I needed a motivational boost. (I would also sell it and become stupid rich, until I’m sued by the Paris Review and go right back to being stupid and poor.) (These are the kinds of thoughts that prevent me from getting done any real work.)

    I enjoy writer Q&As, when done right. I much prefer in-person or phone interviews, rather than email exchanges, which to me usually come off as unnatural, and often involve the interviewer writing unacceptably long questions, concerned mostly with showcasing his/her own writer wisdom for the reader. Inevitably those questions involve much more I than you. Were I feeling more churlish, I’d cite a few egregious examples. read more

    My Favorite Thing About Coaching

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 1 comment

    teacher-1276266_960_720September is known as “back-to-school month” here in the United States. Remember those trips to Kmart for pencil boxes and protractors and colored pencils? That mixture of anticipation for a new school year balanced with those feelings of “Aww damn it, summer’s over already and now I have to sit in social studies again”?

    August has also, in a way, been back-to-school month here at WBN, with our emphasis on coaching, its educational and practical value. Because in its own way, coaching is a form of school. A coaching session is a scheduled hour designed to help you learn how to become a stronger writer — and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than an MFA. Hell, you can even look at the writing you produce between sessions as homework. (But only if you want to!)

    In fact, one of my coachees signs off on his emails with “Your Student.” And at the end of each session he says, “OK, so what’s my assignment this week?”

    This past week, on top of the standard homework, we asked some of you to share with us your favorite aspect of coaching.

    Think of it as a sort of “My favorite part of summer vacation.” read more

    April 20, 2017: Your Writing Goals & You

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 13 comments

    Here comes a sentence so abhorrent that I suddenly feel the need to write it in verse so that I can have a break between the awful bits:

    Monday morning

    I stood on line

    At the post office

    For a “certificate of mailing”

    To send our quarterly taxes to the

    Internal Revenue Service.

    (N.b. In the Midwest we stand in line. Here in NYC, we stand on line. Is that a dominance thing? In line, you’re at the mercy of the line. “Get in line with the rest of us sheep and wait your turn. That’s right, all the way in the baaaaaaaaaaaack.” [Ugh, I’m so sorry about that.] On line, it’s like you’ve got things under control; you’re the one giving the mercy. “I choose to remain on line for now, but if I wanted to, I could skip all you turkeys and go to the front because I have that privilege and you all should thank me for not exercising it.”)

    (N.b. I still think the plural of turkey should be turkies. Turkies & monkies.)

    Well great, we’re right on track, as usual. read more

    Six Years of Rejection: What I Did When Editors Said No

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Inspiration     Comments 16 comments

    Our pal Martin Barkley’s story “W’s Decorum” was published recently at Queen Mob’s Tea House. I knew Martin had been working on — submitting, polishing, submitting, polishing —  that story for many years, and it set me to wondering: after six years of rejection, had he ever felt like giving up on “W’s Decorum”? What kept him from doing so? How did it feel to finally have someone pick it up? i.e., was the pleasure worth the pain? He was kind enough to write about the experience for us below.

    How about you folks? What keeps you submitting a piece of work that gets rejected again and again? How do you keep yourself from giving up? Is the pleasure of publication worth the pain of rejection? Let us know in the comments below or drop us a line. –DD


    By Martin Barkley

    “W’s Decorum” is a story written in the form of a legal deposition (4,962 words), a story that has a bunch of fine cuss words and erudite footnotes, and that disses George W. Bush for making being a dick acceptable.”

    From my cover letter to Queen Mob’s Tea House


    Negativity PositivityI wrote this story that was rejected eight times over the course of six years. In between offering the story and receiving refusals, I was busy writing other things, so that factored into the lengthy timeline to publication, but I kept coming back to the story.

    Because I keep a spreadsheet of my submissions (see below), I know how many times and where the piece got the kibosh. About half the editors responded quickly, perhaps too quickly (In one fucking day, Word Riot — really?) to have actually read the piece. Three of the submissions sat in a slush pile for two months or more, which is fairly standard, but it does drag out the process. As does the stingy “No Simultaneous Submission” policy, which I resentfully obeyed whenever required. read more

    Going Public With a Reading Resolution

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 32 comments

    reading resolutionLast week’s spirited discussion about writing resolutions and public accountability is still going strong, as many of you have shared with us your 2016 writing goals. This week I want to tell you about my 2016 reading resolution, and I want to hear your reading resolution too.

    In the post above, I mentioned my reading log, and how at the end of 2012 I was so disappointed with that year’s list that I publicly vowed to read eighty books in 2013, else I be obliged to perform a public dramatic reading of Fifty Shades of Grey while wearing a hot-pink onesie.

    I must admit, last year’s reading list was as woeful as 2012’s. For one thing, the amount was lower than it’s been in years. I know quantity isn’t all that matters, but I still prefer to average a book per week, and last year I didn’t come very close to that.

    And of the books I did manage to read, well fewer than half were written by women, minorities, or foreign authors in translation. Combined! read more

    Going Public With a Writing Resolution

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 35 comments

    FireworksAccording to this random study, 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions accomplish them. That sounds about right. Put another way, if you make twenty-five resolutions on New Year’s Eve, you’re likely to achieve two of them by the same time next year. Two outta twenty-five, gang. And the two would be probably the simplest and/or least important ones, too. (No study makes that claim — it’s just me being a cynic. Twelve days ago I resolved to be less of a cynic in 2016. Oh-for-one.)

    There’s a formality in the word “resolve,” a certain firmness. (A comic, maybe Carlin, once lobbied to have “firmth” become a word. I support that.) If you resolve to do something, it’s not just a passing thought; it’s a declaration. “I don’t just want to do this thing — I declare that I will do this thing!” It’s a strong statement.

    Well, folks, we humans struggle with strong statements. And most other things. And so another year passes and another set of resolutions goes unachieved, and we feel a little bit more like pieces of shit each and every December 31. read more

    Words of Wisdom For Aspiring Writers, Part III

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 4 comments

    Our writing coaches spend plenty of time dishing out wisdom for aspiring writers in one-on-one settings, while delivering our signature writers’ services. But we can’t let our clients hog all of the great advice, so today we’re presenting the third installment of our video series, Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers.

    Turn off Netflix and go paddle a canoe, Brad Tyer says. Resa Alboher wants us to listen to the music of our own words. Chris Mattix urges us to show our work to others. These three and five more talented WriteByNight writing coaches and consultants share their knowledge with us in the video below, which, along with lots of other goodies, is also available on our YouTube channel.



    And here is a transcript, if you want to spread some of the love on Twitter, Facebook, et al. read more

    Visualization Exercises for Writers, Part I

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 18 comments

    Bored at Work“Writing is so easy for me; I never have a frustrating writing session,” says a writer who’s totally lying. You’re going to have hellish days, days when you’re thisclose to printing out your manuscript only for the satisfaction of setting it aflame and watching that garbage burn.

    (Protip: Do that in the shower or the kitchen sink, and not, like, on the carpet near the drapes and the lighter fluid.)

    Bad writing sessions are unavoidable. And sometimes a crummy writing day bleeds into another, and another, and soon it becomes a bad writing week, and then Sunday turns to Monday and you’re still stopped up, and if you can’t rein it in and you can’t get unstuck then, look, now it’s two weeks, and now a month, and then damn, where did the summer go and what’s to do about that vow you made to finish your book by Halloween? read more

    The Benefits of Saying NO

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Inspiration     Comments 2 comments

    NOWhen’s the last time you said “no”? To an invitation, an opportunity, a favor. To a family member, a business associate, a friend. How did it feel to say it? What did you do with your time instead?

    I recently read a book excerpt on Medium that got me thinking about saying no. Who does it, who doesn’t, who should, and why.

    This excerpt, called “Creative People Say No,” from Kevin Ashton’s book How to Fly a Horse, tells of a Hungarian psychology professor who requested interviews with creatives (writers, artists, composers, etc.) for a book he was writing. Of the 275 creatives contacted, only a third said “yes”; a third said “no,” citing lack of time as the reason; and a third didn’t respond, presumably due to lack of time.

    That response isn’t so amazing in and of itself, but what is thought-provoking is the care with which these creatives guarded their time. read more

    WBN Writing Coaches Share Their Wisdom

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 6 comments

    About a year ago we gathered together some excellent advice for beginning writers from our writing coaches and consultants, set them to some fun Muzak, and offered them as Parts 1 and 2 of a video series called “Words of Wisdom For the Aspiring Writer.”

    OK, so what? So, since those videos posted we’ve taken on even more wonderful writing coaches, and they too have some hot tips for those of you us looking for a little writing inspiration. “Show your work!” they tell us. “Read and live!” “Engage in the process!

    And, of course, do that thing with your butt. read more

    Writing Prompt: You and Your Character

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 1 comment

    New perspectiveToday we want to offer up a writing prompt that has always worked well for us in the past, a way to hopefully gain a new perspective of you and your character. It’s aimed at you fiction writers out there, especially if you’re working on a novel or a particular short story. If you write nonfiction, you can find some creative ways to spin it around.

    And it goes like this:

    First, recall a moment of serious tension from your own life. That time someone broke into your house. The day you rear-ended a cop car. The night your parents took you to the Ice Capades. Envision the scene: the setting, the people, the dialogue, the feelings and emotions. Now, write that scene. read more

    Writing Prompt: Castles in the Air

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments No comments

    Castles in the AirTo build castles in the air. It’s an idiom meaning to make plans or goals, or to create hopes, that have very little chance of ever happening. We’ve all done it, some more than others. Some of us build castles in the air and then live in them forevermore.

    Edward Gibbon once said, “There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.” True, for most. It’s not an odd thing to say for a guy who wrote The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire–think of how much ground-level castle building it took to write that beast of a book. I imagine that Gibbon said the above as soon as he finished the last page of the last volume, putting down his feather pen, shaking loose of his powdered wig, maybe taking snuff and then (ostensibly) sneezing.

    For today’s writing prompt I want you to think about this concept of castles in the air. read more