Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Everything I Know About Writing A Novel (written for my Ryerson Class)

Useful Hints for Writing
more or less everything I know, in two pages

1. Write a story that means something to you; that you care about. Write a story only you can write! Otherwise you will not enjoy what you are doing, and you will not bring anything special to it.

2. You don’t have to know everything that happens before you begin, but it’s useful to make some kind of an outline, mapping where you want to go, and to keep filling it and changing and rearranging as you go along, so that you do not lose sight of your intentions, and so that you have the confidence to keep going.

3. Write more detailed instructions to yourself at the end of each bit you’ve finished writing so that you know what to do when you get back to it. Especially if your schedule doesn’t permit you to write every day, it will be a huge relief to read: “Now he has to go into the restaurant and try to guess which of the middle-aged ladies picking at their salads and sipping iced-tea is his birth-mother. Unfortunately, the restaurant is full of middle-aged ladies. He is, in fact, the only man there.” Or whatever.

4. Having an outline will also prevent “writer’s block” because you will always be able to write a bit that takes place earlier or later if you’re not comfortable with what comes next in the linear progression of the plot. But in order to write a random bit out of sequence, you have to know, at least roughly, what the sequence is!

5. Write sketches of all your characters. Make family trees. Get everyone’s ages right, and link their chronology to the time-line of your plot. A lot of this may never get into your finished story, but you still have to know it. It makes a difference whether your character was 5 or 15 when his parents split up, or if she was 14 or 20 when she ran away from home. It makes a difference whether your protagonist had siblings, or grandparents, or lived in the city or on a farm. And so on.

6. And about that city or farm – imagine it fully; again, more fully than necessary. When you see your character stepping outside to get a breath of fresh air, is she on the balcony of a 12th floor downtown condo or standing in a wheat field under an endless prairie sky? You need to be able to see the world of your book, to smell it, and to taste it, not only so that your characters behave appropriately but also so that your readers can inhabit it imaginatively.

7. If you are writing a story set long ago or far away, you may have to do a lot of research. Let the research inform your understanding of the setting and fill you with confidence but don’t let it weigh the story down with tedious exposition. Don’t forget, the people in your story already know all about the place and time they inhabit! Only put in whatever information is necessary so that the reader can understand what is going on too.

8. Avoid clich├ęs not only of speech but of thought; not only of character but of situation. When you reread your work, be vigilant. Consider revising whenever you find laziness and shortcuts; always try to find fresh ways of seeing things and therefore of saying things. AT THE SAME TIME (and this is important) don’t strain after novelty when it isn’t required. Being fresh doesn’t mean using bizarre, ornate, or improbable imagery and obscure language. Sometimes simple language is a knife to the heart.

9. Accept that it may take you a very long time indeed to arrive at a story you are satisfied with. But enjoy the journey! You are getting to improvise, to play make-believe, finally, again, after all these years. Let your mind wander and go down weird digressions; give your characters freedom to become who they must; write descriptions of what fascinates you. And then accept that you will have to trash a lot of what you have written, and start over. As Samuel Beckett says wryly, "Fail again. Fail better."

10. Don’t be precious. Don’t hoard what you’ve written. Know that there will be more where that came from. Respect the story, and let it become better, no matter how much it costs you. Remember: No effort is wasted. You are serving an apprenticeship to a craft. You can only learn to write by writing.

Scott Griffin brings poetry into Canadian schools

Scott Griffin brings poetry into Canadian schools

Friday, October 08, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why you should (not) date a writer

offended by rank OBJECTIFICATION of writers

There is this thing currently going around tumblr about why dating a writer is good. I think it’s nice that this thing is going around, because I like writers, and lots of us could use more dates. As a writer who has dated people, though — including other writers — I would like to offer some correctives to this list.

The items in bold are the alleged reasons to date a writer. I have replaced the original commentary with my bleak corrective, in lightface.

1. Writers will romance you with words. We probably won’t. We write for ourselves or for money and by the time we’re done we’re sick of it. If we have to write you something there’s a good chance it’ll take us two days and we’ll be really snippy and grumpy about the process.

2. Writers will write about you. You don’t want this. Trust me.

3. Writers will take you to interesting events. No. We will not. We are busy writing. Leave us alone about these “interesting events.” I know one person who dates a terrific writer. He goes out alone. She is busy writing.

4. Writers will remind you that money doesn’t matter so much. Yes. We will do this by borrowing money from you. Constantly.

5. Writers will acknowledge you and dedicate things to you. A better way to ensure this would be to become an agent. That way you’d actually make money off of talking people through their neuroses.

6. Writers will offer you an interesting perspective on things. Yes. Constantly. While you’re trying to watch TV or take a shower. You will have to listen to observations all day long, in addition to being asked to read the observations we wrote about when you were at work and unavailable for bothering. It will be almost as annoying as dating a stand-up comedian, except if you don’t find these observations scintillating we will think you’re dumb, instead of uptight.

7. Writers are smart. The moment you realize this is not true, your relationship with a writer will develop a significant problem.

8. Writers are really passionate. About writing. Not necessarily about you. Are you writing?

9. Writers can think through their feelings. So don’t start an argument unless you’re ready for a very, very lengthy explication of our position, our feelings about your position, and what scenes from our recent fiction the whole thing is reminding us of.

10. Writers enjoy their solitude. So get lost, will you?

11. Writers are creative. This is why we have such good reasons why you should lend us $300 and/or leave us alone, we’re writing.

12. Writers wear their hearts on their sleeves. Serious advice: if you meet a writer who’s actually demonstrative, be careful.

13. Writers will teach you cool new words. This is possibly true! We may also expect you to remember them, correct your grammar, and look pained after reading mundane notes you’ve left for us.

14. Writers may be able to adjust their schedules for you. Writers may be able to adjust their schedules for writing. Are you writing? Get in line, then.

15. Writers can find 1000 ways to tell you why they like you. By the 108th you’ll be pretty sure we’re just making them up for fun.

16. Writers communicate in a bunch of different ways. But mostly writing. Hope you don’t like talking on the phone — that shit is rough.

17. Writers can work from anywhere. So you might want to pass on that tandem bike rental when you’re on vacation.

18. Writers are surrounded by interesting people. Every last one of whom is imaginary.

19. Writers are easy to buy gifts for. This is true. Keep it in mind when your birthday rolls around, okay?

20. Writers are sexy. No argument. Some people think this about heroin addicts, too.

Alternate solution: it will be pretty much like dating anyone else who likes to do a particular thing, you know?

(Source: 52hearts)
Cite Arrow reblogged from douglasmartini

Monday, August 09, 2010

what to do with your books after you get an e-reader


Thursday, February 25, 2010