Tag Archives: theme

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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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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One Person’s Tic Is Another Person’s Style

Not long ago an author friend of mine mentioned on Facebook that the book he was reading had too much repetition. “Characters frequently curl their fingers into their palms,” he said. “And everything smells like cinnamon.” In the amount of time it took three people to comment, my friend noted that he’d read about the […]

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The Significance of Symbolism

Intellectual treat or not, the significance of all that blood was hard to miss once I started reading over my beer- and tea-spattered first-draft manuscript [of Carrie]. So I started to play with the idea, image, and emotional connotations of blood, trying to think of as many associations as I could. There were lots, most […]

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Study This: I’ll Give You the Sun

Here’s another in my Study This series about intentional reading—that is, novels you writers will read for pleasure (always pleasure!) but also to study. To deconstruct. To have a look at how the author made the magic. You know I love YA, so it should come as no surprise that I’d suggest one to study. […]

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Short Saturday: Story Ideas

I am always interested in interviews with authors, especially when they’re as interesting as this one at the Harper’s Magazine blog is. It’s a chat with Christopher Beha and concerns, mostly, his second novel, Arts and Entertainment. We’ve talked a lot about story ideas in this spot, and I love what comes up here when […]

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Craft and Creativity (An Update*)

Yep, I’m still working on summer update posts. It’s a great way to feature some really smart articles, draw attention to some of my older posts, and take just a little blog break—even though I truly enjoy researching and writing original content. It’s a creative outlet for me. Editing is creative work, of course, but […]

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It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green

It’s hard to be a beginner. Kids, they’ve got that whole teacher / student dichotomy down, but when you’re a grownup with a novel burning a hole in your pocket (not to mix my metaphors or anything), it’s not always easy to resume the role of student. But, my friends, the path to publication—which runs […]

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Short Saturday: What’s at Stake?

It’s the time of year when NaNoWriMo are the syllables on everyone’s lips. Even James Scott Bell’s. In this post over at Kill Zone, Bell talks about how to get ready for NaNoWriMo by deciding what’s at stake for your protagonist—and then writing every scene to reflect it. Every plot can be rendered in this […]

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What Are the Elements of a Story-Worthy Problem?

Some time ago I was writing about plot and I used the term story-worthy problem. And then a reader asked, “What are the elements of a story-worthy problem?” Well, kids, I had to think about it. The story-worthy problem. You’ve seen the phrase around, I’m sure, and not just here. I was first exposed to […]

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