Category Archives: The Writing Craft

Study This: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

I’ve already written about The Summer Before the War—which I read first (and which is, in fact, the more accomplished novel)—but I really enjoyed Helen Simonson’s novel-writing skills in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (the New York Times calls it “funny, barbed, delightfully winsome storytelling”) and I think there’s a lot to learn from reading her. Indeed, the […]

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Short Saturday: Creative Storytelling Lessons

I haven’t seen Hamilton, but I know a lot of you are fans—and in this article about the making-of documentary Hamilton’s America, author Charles Wendig offers up storytelling lessons, noting, “there’s nothing more fascinating than watching an interesting creator in the process of creation, and Lin-Manuel Miranda is nothing if not a very interesting creator, […]

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Short Saturday: Stammer Verbs

I love it when I find an article that gives me a name for something I’ve noticed in editing, but didn’t know what to call it. Such is the case when I read this article at Jane Friedman’s website: “2 Stammer Verbs to Avoid in Your Fiction.” What the heck is a stammer verb? Here […]

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Short Saturday: Write What You Know, Again

I wrote a version of my WWYK article a year ago, but I wasn’t satisfied with it, and I let it sit for months until I could find the time to think about it and tweak it until I was satisfied. And now that I’ve finally published it, there is a best-selling book out that […]

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The Principle of Write What You Know

Do a little search for this phrase—write what you know (WWYK)—and you’ll get all sorts of articles, some deeper, more knowing, than others. Some of these articles contradict. Some make the concept more difficult than it needs to be. But I’m here to make a case for writing what you know—because I have been seeing […]

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Short Saturday: Why I Stopped Reading Your Book

Like author Chuck Wendig, I’ve gotten a whole lot pickier about what I read and how much time I give it before I stop. “For one,” he says, “it’s time.” Work and time and personal responsibilities all intrude. But also, he says, “I’m like a stage magician where it’s harder to fool me with your […]

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Overwriting: Relax, You’re Trying Too Hard

Many years ago—long before my editing days—I was reading my hot-off-the-press copy of Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides. (Before lights out, in bed, where I still do my pleasure reading.) There was one paragraph (among many) that was so exquisite, so perfect, that I threw the book across the room in despair. (I’m not […]

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Short Saturday: Developing Your Writer’s Voice

Jane Friedman really has some interesting guest writers on her blog. A couple weeks ago, this one from author Jennifer Loudon on developing your writing voice: “5 Ways to Develop Your Writer’s Voice.” (I’ve written some on this myself: here and here, just for starters.) It’s an interesting article, with elements I hadn’t considered. Like […]

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Short Saturday: The Art of the (Fiction) Con

Here’s a great article from author Elizabeth Sims about internal dialogue. (In most cases I would call it inner monologue, but that’s neither here nor there; I’ve written about it before.) I particularly got a kick out of Sims’s pointing out pitfalls— Making a character’s inner voice into a sarcastic wisecracker who won’t shut up. […]

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Short Saturday: Your Protagonist’s Inner Journey

I stumbled on this article—“Understand Character Wounds: A List of Common Themes” at Writers Helping Writers—a few months ago, and I just love the way the writer drills down to character motivation. The protagonist’s path is much like yours or mine–one that will (hopefully) bring him closer to lifelong happiness and fulfillment. In real life, […]

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