George Saunders on Overcoming Uncertainty in Writing
lithub.com – Sunday February 27, 2022
A few years ago, in my MFA writers’ workshop at Syracuse University, we were critiquing a story by a truly wonderful writer, and it was a damned good story too. In it, a brother and a sister were living together because the brother, a former star athlete, had suffered a brain injury and wasn’t able to live alone. The story was narrated by a man in love with the sister. In the scene in question, the man drives by on a steamy summer evening, sees the sister on the porch, joins her up there—and the sparks start to fly. It was one of the best depictions of strong mutual desire I’ve ever read. It was clear that the two were about to do it, right there on the porch. Although, the brother was asleep, just on the other side of a screen door.
So, the writer had made a lovely, consequence-rich moment. (“How can they have sex right there on the porch? How can they not? What if he wakes up? Oh God, that would be terrible. Yet it would also be cool. Talk about raising the stakes!”) Then, at the critical moment, as the man reached for the woman—a teapot inside the house came to a boil.
The woman went inside, the sexual energy went poof, the man went home.
At the time, as I recall it, we critiqued this as an oversight on the writer’s part—she hadn’t told us there was a teapot on the stove. After workshop, the writer admitted that she wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted to have happen in that scene—and a little light went on in my head.
That teapot wasn’t an oversight, or a mistake, I realized, it was a placeholder—a kind of “To Be Determined” sign, the subconscious’s way of saying, “I know this is important and I don’t want to screw it up. Can I get back to you?” (Like one of those Magic Eight Balls, the story was saying, “Ask again later.”)
Outside, looking in: the reality of being a querying writer
thebookseller.com – Sunday February 27, 2022
This is how it feels like to be one of those thousands and thousands of writers still querying, week after week, and getting nowhere.
The book industry begins with writers.
Sure, its fuel is commercial sales, trends, profit and loss, metadata… But it begins with one person (occasionally two) sitting in a room, staring at a blank screen. Then, eventually, beginning to fill that screen, before finally writing "The End".
I began writing seven years ago and have written three novels and am about to start my fourth. I fell into many of the newbie traps: thinking my books were finished way before they were (apologies to anyone I queried at that point), not being clear enough on essentials like the "singular narrative thrust which propels the story forward and keeps you hanging on to find out what will happen next".
What I didn’t realise, when I started out on this path, was that my screen would, in time, be swapped for a window. One for which–while I can stare in at the friendly world of publishing–I cannot find the accompanying door.
So you want to write a book? Part 2: Agents, queries and timelines
niemanstoryboard.org – Thursday February 24, 2022
You’ve written that gripping long-form story, and you’re champing at the bit to get a book deal. What do you do?
My own journey started with a lot of wrong turns and even more learning, which I wrote about in Part I of this mini-series. But it finally got my first book, “The Spy’s Son,” onto bookshelves. It tells the true story of the highest-ranking CIA officer ever convicted of espionage, and how he recruited his son to follow in his spy steps.
Contracts for other books followed. And later this year, “The Spy’s Son” is coming out as a TV-and-streaming docuseries.
Here is my go-to advice about the four essential things you need to do, and how to build a timeline to support that work.
So you want to write a book? Part 1: Have a strong story and resilient ego
niemanstoryboard.org – Wednesday February 23, 2022
ll the great writers have proffered wisdom on the craft, the best-in-show quote being Norman Mailer’s: “Writing books is the closest men come to childbearing.” But the literary sages have offered scarce advice to serious long-form journalists on plotting, writing and, most importantly, selling a nonfiction book
So for now, you’re stuck with moi.
Look, m’friends, if a lunch-bucket journalist like me can do it, so can you. All you need is endurance (maximized by a 14-cup coffee maker), great story organization skills, a boatload of time (and the tolerant family that comes with it), the power to shrug off rejections and monophobia, the guidance of a good literary agent, and a smidgen or two of pure damned luck.
Here are six things to consider as you begin your quest to write a nonfiction book.
Here Are David Lynch's Simple Tips for Writing Screenplays
nofilmschool.com – Tuesday February 22, 2022
David Lynch is such a fun filmmaker. I feel like he's super open with his process but also talks in a way where there's no definition, adjusting what he thinks based on how he thinks it would help the people listening. When it came to screenwriting, Lynch didn't hold back. He used practical skills that anyone can emulate to work on their ideas.
Lynch is the mind behind movies like Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and the Twin Peaks saga. His advice is awesome and I'm so happy to share it here.
How a Book Is Made
nytimes.com – Sunday February 20, 2022
Have you ever wondered how a book becomes a book? Join us as we follow Marlon James’s “Moon Witch, Spider King” through the printing process.
It started as a Word document, pecked out letter by letter at a dining room table in Connecticut.
Now, it is 150,000 copies of a 626-page book called “Moon Witch, Spider King,” with a luminous cover that glows with neon pinks and greens.
While digital media completely upended industries like music, movies and newspapers, most publishers and authors still make the bulk of their money from selling bound stacks of paper.
A Word, Please: Seven deadly adverbs to avoid in your writing
latimes.com – Wednesday February 16, 2022
Adverbs are great, right? They let you describe how an action went down — whether it was walking quickly or sleeping soundly or yelling loudly.
But if adverbs are so great, why do editors like me spend a good chunk of our time hacking and slashing them out of articles, stories and other written works? Answer: Because the adverbs you know and love — those dynamic little words with the cute -ly tails — aren’t as benevolent as you think. Some can undermine your message and cast doubt on your credibility. Below we’ll look at seven deadly adverbs to avoid. But first, a few important points.
We don’t need more literary magazines
spectatorworld.com – Tuesday February 15, 2022
At CNN, Leah Asmelash laments the demise of many “long-standing” literary magazines. “The Believer,” she writes, which was started in 2003, “was once at the top of the literary magazine game. A leading journal of art and culture, the Believer published the work of icons like Leslie Jamison, Nick Hornby and Anne Carson. It won awards, it launched careers.” But the University of Nevada, which has housed the magazine since 2017, announced that it was shutting it down: “In a statement explaining the decision, the dean of the school’s College of Liberal Arts called print publications like the Believer ‘a financially challenging endeavor.’”
Oh, boy. Leslie Jamison, an icon? The Believer, a publication that “launched careers”? The only thing missing here is some theme music and a “CNN exclusive” or two.
Asmelash goes on to write about a handful of literary magazines housed at universities with MFA programs that are also shutting down — the Alaska Quarterly Review and the Sycamore Review, among others. We get the predictable “It wasn’t always this way” about halfway through:
Valentine’s Day: Four authors share their thoughts on writing romance
belfasttelegraph.co.uk – Sunday February 13, 2022
With romantic fiction sales increasing 49% last year, just what is it about these tantalising tales that set our hearts ablaze?
Mills & Boon author Lynne Graham believes happy endings are one of the reasons why the romance genre remains so popular. Penning love stories helped the Ballymena-based author to achieve her very own happy ending when she used her first book payment for a special purpose.
“My first advance paid for us to go out to Sri Lanka, where we adopted two of our children,” Lynne says.
“I had a 10-year-old daughter at the time. It felt like a miracle that the cheque arrived at that moment and it was sufficient to cover the travel expenses, so I’ve never forgotten it.”
The mum-of-five is the bestselling Mills & Boon Presents author, with sales of 42 million worldwide.
“I do not think it is a good story.” Never ask Charles Dickens for writing advice.
lithub.com – Tuesday February 8, 2022
Today marks the 210th birthday of Charles Dickens—novelist, critic, and, from 1859 until his death, editor of a weekly literary journal called All the Year Round. As literary journal editors will presumably understand, the responsibilities stressed him out to the point of dispensing with politeness. We know this because when Dickens’s friend Captain Frederick Marryat’s daughter Florence submitted a piece and asked him for writing advice, he roasted her to hell for even asking for feedback:
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