writing advice Archive

As the Train of Fiction Rolls On, the Space Between

Author: | Categories: Interviews, Reading, Writing No comments
Last year, I interviewed Pam Houston about her novel Contents May Have Shifted and the fine line between fact and fiction. “Well, I don’t think of it as a fine line,” she wrote to me in an email. My task as a writer has always been to take the

Since Feeling is First: Elements of Craft to Express Emotion

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Emotions, feelings, desires—whatever you choose to call them—are central to writing. e.e. cummings wrote “since feeling is first / who pays any attention / to the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss you.” But how do we pay attention to syntax while retaining feeling? There are countless

What’s Done is Done is Done Again

As a creative writing instructor, I get asked two questions more than any others. The first is easy enough to answer: “How do I find time to write?” There’s no secret here—set a schedule and get to your desk. The second question, however, continues to stump me, both as a

No Shoes, No Shirt, No Fiction: Let’s Get Out of the Restaurant

Author: | Categories: Reading, Writing 1 Comment
“I need to tell you something,” he said. He twirled his spaghetti around his fork. She sipped her wine. “What is it?” “Well.” He shoved the tangle of spaghetti in his mouth and chewed. She fiddled with her spoon. Suddenly, the waitress appeared. She had a grease stain on

The Ploughshares Round-Down: Three Things Writers Can Learn From Solange and Jay Z

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Between Jill Abramson’s indecorous firing and Amazon’s ongoing vendetta against Hachette, the publishing world gave me a lot of potential topics for the Ploughshares Round-Down this week, which I’m covering for Tasha Golden while she takes some well-earned time off. And yet there’s another, completely non-publishing-related story that I

Episodia 2.4: Lessons in Creativity from “Mad Men”

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Tonight the seventh and final season of “Mad Men” premieres on AMC. I’ve loved this show and the slow, magnetic swirl of 1960s Manhattan ever since the episode “Babylon” aired in 2007. The entire series might be considered in terms of the opening credits we’ve all grown familiar with:

Episodia 2.3: Why Writers Need Jury Duty

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A while back, when I was living near Newark, I got a summons for jury duty. As soon as I saw the thin slip of paper that labeled me as “juror x,” I started to brainstorm how I might be able to get out of it. I was more

Episodia 1.16: How to Structure Your Memoir

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Sometimes memoirists can feel as if we have very few choices about our stories. Bound by truth and memory, we can often conclude there’s not much room for our creative selves to have a say. But here’s a secret—we don’t have to pin down a narrative in the order

Episodia 1.15: Revising with Sherlock

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I don’t know about you, but when I write my rough drafts, I’m staggering around in the dark. There are plot holes, dropped story lines, and unanswered questions—all the good, gnarly stuff that goes into the early part of the writing process. The key for us writers is—when the

The Best Writing Advice I Never Gave

Author: | Categories: Writing Advice 2 Comments
A while back a friend of mine contacted me with a good idea: he wanted to collect one piece of advice from a number of writers he knew and pass all of them on to his advanced undergraduate workshop students. If you’re anything like me, this is the kind