An Extraordinary Demonstration of Narrative Dexterity

3 05 2018

THE CHALLENGE OF WRITING ACROSS
TIME AND VERNACULAR
Gregory Blake Smith in Conversation with Bonnie Nadzam

Gregory Blake Smith is author of The Maze at Windermere (Viking, January 2018), already critically acclaimed for its breathtaking scope and beauty. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles has called it “staggeringly brilliant… an extraordinary demonstration of narrative dexterity.” It is those things and more; it is timely, it is important, it made me cry and sit very still when I finished it, and it is among the best American novels I’ve ever read. I would say so even if Greg weren’t a former college professor of mine, and now friend. Among his other books, his novel The Divine Comedy of John Venner, was named a Notable Book of 1992 by The New York Times Book Review and his short story collection The Law of Miracles won the 2010 Juniper Prize for Fiction and the 2012 Minnesota Book Award.

Read further @ Literary Hub

 

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Writing Advice by a Great Author

3 05 2018
                                                                                                                                                                    PHOTO: aljazeera.com

“INTUITION IS ESSENTIAL.” WRITING ADVICE FROM GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ

In the face of the literary world’s ongoing fetish for youth, I often like to remind myself that Gabriel García Márquez didn’t become famous until he was 40. That’s when he published his fourth novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Now, of course, he’s a household name, beloved for his storytelling ability and fantastical imagination (though as he’d tell you, everything in his most famous novel happened—somewhere, to someone). García Márquez is a master of storytelling, but he’s also a master of discipline: above all else, he put in the work. For that alone, we should all listen to his advice. So on the anniversary of his death, here is some collected literary wisdom from one of the all-time greats.

Read further @ Literary Hub

 





On the Art of Flash Fiction

13 04 2018

ON THE VERY CONTEMPORARY ART OF FLASH FICTION

Lord Chesterfield called the novel “a kind of abbreviation of a Romance.” Ian McEwan described the more compact novella as “the beautiful daughter of a rambling, bloated, ill-shaven giant.” William Trevor considered the short story “essential art.” Writing a story, he said, is infinitely harder than writing a novel, “but it’s infinitely more worthwhile.” And now we have the even shorter story, a form that was validated, if it needed to be, when Lydia Davis, whose stories are sometimes a sentence long, was awarded the 2013 Man Booker International Prize. In their citation, the judges said of Davis’s works: “Just how to categorize them? They have been called stories but could equally be miniatures, anecdotes, essays, jokes, parables, fables, texts, aphorisms or even apothegms, prayers or simply observations.”

The short-short story is narrative (or it’s not) that is distilled and refined, concentrated, layered, coherent, textured, stimulating, and resonant, and it may prove to be the ideal form of fiction for the 21st century, an age of shrinking attention spans and busy and distracted lives, in which our mobile devices connect us to the world as they simultaneously divert us from it. And on the screens of our smartphones and our iPads and our laptops, we can fit an entire work of flash fiction. It’s short but not shallow; it’s a reduced form used to represent a larger, more complex story; it’s pithy and cogent, brief and pointed, and like the gist of a recollected conversation, it offers the essential truth, if not all the inessential facts.

The market for flash fiction is extensive and it’s growing. A Google search for flash fiction markets nets 719,000 hits in .55 seconds. Duotrope lists 4,700 publications looking for flash fiction, and a few of those outlets publish 365 stories a year. Your chances of finding a home for your short-short story are considerably better than they are for your novel. What better way to break into the world of publishing, to get your name out there, to earn the endorsement of editors, to introduce your beloved characters to an appreciable number of readers? If your dream is to write a novel, consider that flash fiction might be your first small step. I learned to write novels by writing short stories and learned to write short stories by writing very short stories before they had a snappy name.

While flash fiction may be quickly read, it is not often quickly written. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” To be brief takes time. But the obvious fact is that it does take less time to write a short-short story than it does the longer forms. It might take years to write a novel (it does for me), months to write a story, but only weeks, maybe days, if you’re lucky, to write a very short story. And an occasional morsel of sweet short-term gratification won’t make you sick. Promise! With the end so close in sight, you are emboldened, and you learn to finish. If you don’t finish, you can’t revise, and if you don’t revise, you won’t learn to write.

Read further @ LitHub





6 02 2018

How the internet changed the way we write – and what to do about it

The usual evolution of English has been accelerated online, leading to a less formal – but arguably more expressive – language than the one we use IRL. So use those emojis wisely …

English has always evolved – that’s what it means to be a living language – and now the internet plays a pivotal role in driving this evolution. It’s where we talk most freely and naturally, and where we generally pay little heed to whether or not our grammar is “correct”.

Should we be concerned that, as a consequence, English is deteriorating? Is it changing at such a fast pace that older generations can’t keep up? Not quite. At a talk in 2013, linguist David Crystal, author of Internet Linguistics, said: “The vast majority of English is exactly the same today as it was 20 years ago.” And his collected data indicated that even e-communication isn’t wildly different: “Ninety per cent or so of the language you use in a text is standard English, or at least your local dialect.”

It’s why we can still read an 18th-century transcript of a speech George Washington gave to his troops and understand it in its entirety, and why grandparents don’t need a translator when sending an email to their grandchildren.

Read further @ The Guardian





The Rule is Don’t Write a Novel

12 01 2018

THE FIRST RULE OF NOVEL-WRITING IS DON’T WRITE A NOVEL

ELIZABETH PERCER: NINE NON-RULES FOR WRITING

If you’d asked me 15 years ago how I saw my future, I would tell you about all the hard work I’d put into earning my doctorate, about the post doc that promised me a way into a fantastic research opportunity; about the tenure track position I hoped to secure one day. I would tell you all this with a clenched jaw, a fierce smile, and a knot in my belly. Because although I’d spent most of my young life envisioning academic achievement as the pinnacle of success and fulfillment, these goals were forged from a lifetime of trying to measure up. I’d shoved my quirky, not particularly scientific self into a mold that suited my family of physicists, mathematicians, and software designers. But somehow along the way, in measuring myself against those I loved and admired, I forgot to check in to see if there was a form within me that was more essential and less shapely, to see if I had measures of my own to follow.

It wouldn’t be until after several life-altering events—most notably, the birth of my three children in somewhat rapid succession—that I would slowly relinquish my grasp on borrowed titles. Once liberated, however, I found myself in the distinctly uncomfortable position of realizing that original compositions are so much harder to develop than derivative ones, not least because they don’t have the same examples to follow.

Still, like any good academic, I tried for years to work at my writing the same way I’d worked at anything. I pushed myself. I was stern with myself. I created strict rules to follow and chastised myself when I didn’t follow them. When that didn’t work, I looked to experts, who told me that I needed to write for about the same time every day in the same place, or that I should seriously consider getting an MFA, or that I should seriously consider not getting an MFA, or who told me that only the most talented writers could succeed, or that true creative talent would never realize any kind of commercial success, or who told me I was too young, or too old. It’s no wonder that in looking for others to tell me how I needed to be, I got into the habit of showing up to my writing at the same time in the same place and freeze

1.  Don’t write a novel
2. Keep your publishing dreams in check
3. Writing doesn’t always look like writing
4. Books do not respond to timelines, spreadsheets, or graphs
5.  Make space for what comes
6.  Procrastinate
7.  Get to Know the Demons on Your Block
8.  Go Gentle into that Dark Night
9.  Don’t Neglect the Rest of You

Read further @ Literary Hub





HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S BOOK

29 11 2017

If books are magic, then children’s books are an extra special brand of magic. The books we read as kids don’t just stick with us, they form who we are and what we believe and how we see the world. Writing a children’s book is a calling, but learning how to write a children’s book is also a very long process with nitty-gritty, non-magical details—and it’s full of variables. No two journeys are exactly the same, but if you’re an aspiring children’s book writer, here is a rough outline of how to go from idea to book!

STEP 1. READ A LOT

STEP 2. CRACK OPEN THAT NOTEBOOK AND GET TO WORK

STEP 3. BE PERSISTENT

STEP 4. CELEBRATE! THEN REVISE

STEP 5. BRING IN OTHER EYES

STEP 6. DO YOUR RESEARCH!

STEP 7. CRAFT A KILLER QUERY

STEP 8. CULTIVATE PATIENCE

STEP 9. CULTIVATE SOME MORE PATIENCE, BUT ALSO KEEP WRITING

STEP 10. WORK WITH EDITOR! AND MORE PATIENCE!

STEP 11. YOU HAVE A BOOK!

Read further @ BookRiot





Easy Steps to Become an Novelist

12 10 2017

HOW TO BECOME A NOVELIST IN
TEN EASY STEPS

1. Examine your motives
2. Arrange financing
3. Write a bad novella
4. Don’t publish the bad novella
5. Think of a plot and characters
6. Write your debut
7. Never worry about style
8. Get an agent
9. Sell it
10. Write another one

Read further @ Literary Hub