Tag Archives: craft of writing

Study This: The Fools Have It

I spent a good little chunk of time reading Richard Russo last summer. (You may or may not be aware that I’m a Russo fan. So much so that I may have just this second talked myself into rereading Empire Falls, which won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.) But we were talking about my […]

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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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#WordUse Series:
Step Away From the Thesaurus and No One Gets Hurt

You know I love my thesaurus, right? I do. I have at least four of them, from various decades dating back to the ’40s (you’d be surprised how useful that is), as well as a rhyming dictionary, a slang dictionary, and something called the Flip Dictionary, which is more fun than any dictionary has a right […]

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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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Short Saturday: Sharpening Your Manuscript

There is so much good information in this article, I don’t know where to start. But how about here: just because you’ve got the novel down—and have polished the plot until it shines—doesn’t mean you’re done. “All of these things might have escaped your notice while you were dealing with bigger issues like plot and characterization—but […]

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Study This: The Summer Before the War

It’s nearly 500 pages long—and I flew through Helen Simonson’s second novel set in an English village. I never wanted to put it down. Also, it made me angry (on behalf of a character I loved), and it made me cry a couple times. This is a sign that I was fully invested—in the characters, […]

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Short Saturday: If You Only Read One Thing …

A comma splice is only a little error, easily fixed. If you gave me a manuscript full of run-on sentences caused by them, it would be an easy edit. But—the “world’s top* grammarian,” this short article from Business Insider tells us, “fears that this punctuation error is becoming standard English.” This makes me sad, because—as […]

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Learning How Fiction Works

I learned to read—I mean learned to read carefully—in 1969. I was in graduate school then and trying to figure out if I should begin to write short stories. … I did not know very much. … Part of my school training as a writer, however, provided that I could learn how to teach. It […]

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