I found this link on
Facebook, via Dylan Landis, and had
to share it because the information is brilliant and succinct, Janet Fitch’s “10
Writing Tips that Can Help Almost Anyone”:
9. Write in scenes
What is a scene? a) A scene starts and ends in one place at one time (the
Aristotelian unities of time and place–this stuff goes waaaayyyy back). b) A
scene starts in one place emotionally and ends in another place emotionally.
Starts angry, ends embarrassed. Starts lovestruck, ends disgusted. c) Something
happens in a scene, whereby the character cannot go back to the way things were
before. Make sure to finish a scene before you go on to the next. Make
Also, check out
Dylan’s wonderful book, Rainey
Royal, now in paperback! It’s a stunner:
portrait of a teenager in 1970s Greenwich Village. Rainey Royal’s life is
wantonly glamorous, degenerate, sophisticated . . . [Landis] has created a kind
of scandalous beauty in her tale of the simultaneously fierce and vulnerable
I hope you’ve never had someone in a
workshop or critique group blatantly declare your work “boring,” but as I know
too well, there are many ways your readers can say “boring” without using that word:
I lost interest here, the pacing is off, we need more tension, I’m not feeling
compelled….and on and on. Yikes.
Here’s a great piece written by one
of the members of my fabulous neighborhood prompt group, Joanne M. Lozar Glenn,
about what to do if you get the dreaded “boring” scribbled onto your manuscript
page. After all, we know it’s better to hear the word from a critique group,
right, rather than waiting for the silence of the editor’s eyes slipping away,
looking to see what else might be in the stack?
Has anyone ever told you that
something you wrote was "boring"? Did you think the criticism was
That's hard to hear. If and when that happens to you, try
at work you've done that your critic, or others, found engaging. Analyze what you did there that you did not do in the
work your critic found boring. That's a clue to what you do well. Do more
that writing gets interesting when it becomes specific. Use concrete, specific, sensory (sight, touch, taste,
smell, sound) details to make your point.
about people. Most of us love to peek into
other people's lives.
you write about people, write about a particular person instead of people
in general. E.B. White once said,
"Don't write about men; write about a man." Again--specificity!
your focus. Go deep rather than wide.
Write only what you can see through a one-inch picture frame (metaphor
courtesy of Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, one of
my favorite writing books). Stay in the moment. Use concrete details to
illustrate abstract ideas.
with copies of Strunk and White's Elements of Style and
Gary Provosts' Make Every Word Count nearby. Both
authors offer lots of examples to clarify their advice, and Provost is
easy and fun to read.
you can, tell a story--even if you're writing for business. Stories make facts and information more palatable.
Humans are hard-wired for story. Give them what they crave.
you tell a story, tell the truth.
Readers can tell when you're hiding something. Your emotional honesty
comes through on the page, and readers will not only find that
interesting, but love you for it.
Joanne M. Lozar Glenn is an independent writer, editor, and
educator based in Alexandria, Va. She writes and edits content for clients in
healthcare, education, and business, and leads "destination" writing
retreats (www.wtwpwn.com). Her essays and
poems have appeared in Peregrine, Under
the Gum Tree, Ayris, The Northern Virginia Review, Hippocampus, The Writer,
and other print and online journals. She is the author of Mentor Me: A Guide to Being Your Own Best Advocate in the Workplace
and co-author of 25+1: Communications
Strategies for Business Education and Applying
Evidence-Based Laboratory Medicine: A Step-by-Step Guide.
In the timeline of exciting things that happen when a book
is in the pipeline to be published, the day it shows up on Amazon is right up
there for thrills. Somehow, everything feels that much more real, seeing the
book up on the computer screen with a price (which I assume will be discounted at
And this is its best moment up there, really, before the
one-star reviews get posted, berating me for using a curse word or angry because this isn't a book about Heaven; before the used copies show up for a penny each; before I
see that readers who viewed my book also viewed some book/author I despise;
before there’s a cheesy pedi-perfect electronic foot file ad cluttering up the
page—oh wait, that’s already happening, there at the bottom.
Pre-order if you feel inspired to do so, but also feel free
to wait and put in a request from your favorite independent bookstore and/or
library. Even better: BOTH! (But stay away from that foot file…it looks like
the thing that buzzes scarily to life in a Stephen King novel!)
Redux, the online journal of previously published work, is
accepting submissions of fiction/poetry/essays during an open reading period: July
5 to July 31. We’re looking for literary
work of high quality that has been previously published in a print journal but
that is not available elsewhere on the internet. Our mission is to bring deserving work to a
new, online audience. Preference will be
given to older pieces (i.e. published before 2012).
No novel excerpts, poems that
appear in chapbooks, or pieces published in anthologies…even if these books are
Please read our guidelines
for important submission information. If
your work is accepted, you will also be asked to write a short “story behind
the piece” essay a la the Best American
series. Pieces must be available in a Microsoft Word file.
Authors we’ve published include
Margot Livesey, Sandra Beasley, Robin Black, R.T. Smith, Michelle Boisseau,
Kelle Groom, Erica Dawson, Catherine Chung, Walter Cummins, Lee Martin, Dave
Housley, and Terese Svoboda.
We look forward to seeing
Questions: reduxlj AT gmail
Dan Wakefield, who is one of my favorite people—and a hell
of a teacher—is offering this workshop near Philly…maybe you’re looking for a
short writing getaway?
A short course with Dan Wakefield
@ Pendle Hill, a Quaker Study, Retreat, and Conference
or call Ext. 137 at 610-566 4507 or 800-742-3150 (toll-free in US)
Travel: Pendle Hill is just fifteen minutes from
Philadelphia International Airport, and twenty minutes outside the city. The
campus is near the Wallingford train station. Take the SEPTA Media/Elwyn line
from Philadelphia and call for a pick-up.
Evocative exercises and group sharing in a nurturing setting
allow us to remember and write about the most meaningful parts of our life’s
journey. Re-experiencing events from our past, we gain fresh perspective and
appreciation for the richness of our lives. We will write of our experiences at
crucial turning points and share our stories in small groups. Come with
openness to the process, and leave with stories of your spiritual journey and
appreciation for the sacred work of writing and sharing them.
Dan Wakefield is a novelist, journalist, and screenwriter,
whose best-selling novels Going All the
Way and Starting Over were made
into major motion pictures. Bill Moyers called Dan’s Returning: A Spiritual Journey “one of the most important memoirs
of the spirit I have ever read.” Dan’s The
Story of Your Life: Writing a Spiritual Autobiography and Releasing the Creative Spirit are the
basis of popular workshops he leads throughout the United States and abroad.
Visit his website for more information: www.danwakefield.com
by Rebecca M. Thomas
I love thinking about
names. I’ve named all my cars, the dog’s
array of toy animals, the four little bronze sculptures on my desk, every
character in my as yet to be published novel.
Right now, I’m ruminating on names for my cello, but I can’t decide if
I’ve got a girl or boy instrument. (No, please, let’s not go there.)
Anyway, names and naming
are always fun, but finding just the right name for a person – or a place – can
sometimes be challenging, if not downright frustrating, or even crucial to a
So, when I want to get
past the baby name books and websites, I turn to one unfailing source not only
for naming ideas but also for story ideas and historical detail – the newspaper
obituary column. That’s right. All kinds of fascinating, useful, and
inspirational names and information lie buried (sorry, couldn’t resist!) on
these pages. Here you will find hundreds of names each day. Names of the deceased, of course, as well as
the names of their many and varied relatives and the places they have lived and
worked. And you’ll read their life
stories, which are a mother lode of accurate historical data, detail and
tidbits that could enhance a multitude of writing projects.
This is what you’ll
specific time periods
ethnic or national origin
Common or fairly
from everyday words or objects (You’d be surprised what words turn into names!)
intriguing that they can evoke their own story
trigger your own memories, possibly leading to important additions to your
for naming fictional towns, streets, neighborhoods, undiscovered planets or worlds
Names of cities,
counties, countries ... both known and obscure…or possibly defunct
Endless list of
names of places where people worked—places still here and those long gone
real people’s involvement in historical events, with levels of detail and
trivia footnotes found nowhere else
Photos of people
from many times and places, offering an abundance of inspiration
If you’ve never thought of
an obituary as a source for your writing, I encourage you to give it a
try. I guarantee it won’t be wasted
time. Above all, your most important
takeaway will be the sense of carpe diem you experience. After all, these stories are already
finished. There’s still time to tell yours.
ABOUT REBECCA M. THOMAS: Formerly director of field services for several
Washington, DC-based national associations, followed by years of freelancing as
a health writer with publication through multiple venues including The Washington Post and
discoveryhealth.com, Thomas now works part time as a personal trainer while
developing a book based on growing up Southern Baptist in the 1950s & 60s.
I’ve been thinking about poetry quite a bit lately, in awe
of what poets do. (It certainly helped that I was recently at the Converse
low-res MFA 10-day residency in South Carolina where I heard MANY amazing poets
read their work, including faculty members Denise Duhamel, Albert Goldbarth,
Richard Tillinghast, Suzanne Cleary, Rick Mulkey, and—our incredible visiting
poet who left an entire room of people utterly mesmerized—Yona Harvey.)
Closer to home, on Sunday I went to Politics & Prose to
see my friend Sandra Beasley read from her wonderful new book of poems, Count the Waves, which received a
glowing review in the Washington Post today:
Beasley presents romance and desire as challenging,
sometimes dangerous and fraught with emotional distance... Beasley, who lives
in Washington and has published two previous poetry collections and the memoir “Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic
Life,” uses humor and surprise like a scythe, cutting to the root
of a matter in ways that may make some chuckling readers think, “Did she really
And read more poetry! What takes me 300 pages to get to,
these poets can cover in 14 lines. Reading poetry will help any writer learn to
be more compact, think about music and rhythm and language. Reading poetry will
help any human learn to feel and observe and connect with life. Plus...something else on my mind lately: reading poetry is low-cal, no-carb, and even gluten-free!
DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.