structure Archive

Time and Opening Chapters: Gaining Trust

Lately I’ve been thinking about time in novels. How to manipulate it, whether it should be linear or nonlinear, and what that choice means for a story. I began to examine it more closely after a recent weekend novel workshop I took with Lauren Grodstein.

Structure: What Writers Can Learn from Visual Artists

Author: | Categories: Writing, Writing Advice No comments
Of all the rules that artists follow, this one is paramount: never ever fill in details before the structure is done. Painters sometimes spend hours sketching before ever touching the canvas. And when they finally do, they build their work slowly, layering in color, laboring on the drawing underneath, roughing

Do-Overs: Worth doing?

It isn’t cool to like archetypes anymore. Utter a name like Carl Jung or Joseph Campbell out loud at your MFA program and you’re likely to get a healthy dose of side-eye. Or, a knowing look that says oh, cute. I remember when I thought it was that simple,

Four Intriguing Ideas from Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism

Author: | Categories: Reading No comments
With five new critical studies of Northrop Frye hitting the bookstores this year, 2015 is turning out to be Frye’s year. Frye was one of the 20th century masters of myth criticism: if you’re at all interested in archetypes, the hero’s journey, or the intersection of religion and literature,

The Narrowed Divide: Of Stylists, Shape-Shifters, and Multiple Aesthetics

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Our collective understanding of how a story, poem, or essay should operate remains in constant flux; every sentence is a new description of language, every piece of writing, a new commentary on art. In this sense, any shared definition of storytelling is best left unresolved, unless we are to

Back to School Special: Thoughtful Imitation

Author: | Categories: Writing 1 Comment
I didn’t study creative writing as an undergraduate; it wasn’t an option. When I enrolled in the MFA program at University of Washington, what I craved more than workshop (which I’d experienced a few times in continuing education settings) was the elusive “craft” class: reading analytically not to make

Dancing with Myself

Author: | Categories: Writing No comments
Anyone who has had a dance party alone in their room can attest to the helpfulness of an impromptu hoe-down. In her textbook Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway advises writers struggling with revision to “worry it and walk away,” but sometimes you need to dance away. The play involved might

Writing Is Like Baseball

Author: | Categories: Uncategorized 1 Comment
Every March my eyes turn south toward spring training. The sunburned announcers report from director’s chairs on games that don’t count. The players work on their autographs and perfect their sunflower seed spits. Teenagers called up from the lowercase “a” team —hardly more than little leaguers—pitch, bat, and field,