Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Jazz it Up!

There are no prescriptions in writing, no one way that will get you there forever.  A little jig, a waltz, the cha-cha, the lindy, a polka--it's good to know a lot of moves, so when it's time, which is right now, you can dance your ass off.

                                                                               --Natalie Goldberg            
                                                                                  Old Friend from Far Away

Monday, December 23, 2013

Do You Need an Agent?

If you're selling magazine articles, poems, individual short stories, single essays--anything that's not a book and won't bring in much money, an agent has little incentive to take you on.  You can probably sell your magazine and journal pieces just as well as an agent can.  If you have a book of poetry, try a university press; many of them acquire poetry manuscripts through award contests.

However, if you're peddling a novel, memoir or story collection, you might consider an agent--whether he/she needs you or not.

Catherine Alexander

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Other People's Dreams

Other people's dreams are boring unless you're in them.  A dream as a story device works too often as a cheap shortcut to the hard work of storytelling.  

Suppose you have a character afraid of failure.  Instead of letting this character reveal his fear by interacting with other people and events, we add a dream sequence in which he burns all his work and smashes his computer.  What becomes of the story?  The device struts on the page and shouts at the reader, leaving the story lurking behind.

Ask yourself what you are trying to reveal that could be done through good old-fashioned character development.  Don't let an easy device rob you of plotting your way into your character's psyche.

Catherine Alexander

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Stories Feed Us

The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them.  If stories come to you, care for the them and learn to give them away where they are needed.  Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.  That is why we put these stories in each other's memories.

                                                                                                    --Barrie Lopez

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Go Deep

All of us have certain moments in our lives when we find our depth. It's a good idea to reflect on these times to create stories that define how we live our lives.  Use the spiral of the story and your experience to add insight and meaning.  The deeper we carry the story, the more we recognize wisdom not only in our lives, but the lives of those around us.

Try these exercises:

  • Write a dialogue between you and someone you love who took a different path.  Talk about how you felt at the time and what it means to you now.
  • Describe a lesson learned the hard way.  What was the cost to you?
  • What are you willing to die for?  Live for?
  • When were you most afraid?  How do you wish you had handled it?
  • Describe a sacrifice you made.  How did it change you?  Would you make the same sacrifice now?
Remember, go deep.  When it hurts, you've reached what you need to create art out of your hidden core.

Progress On My Second Novel

The main problem in my second novel is drawing out the female protagonist. She is 21, admitted to a psych ward of a hospital after a suicide...