Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘writing rules’

Shop Talk |

"Masturbate frequently."

We hear a lot about how writers find their inspiration. But how about other creative artists? The Guardian surveyed contemporary musicians, dancers, directors, and architects to find out where they got their creative inspiration. Much of their advice is unexpected, yet would be useful to writers as well. Here’s a sampler: Guy Garvey, musician: Spending time in your own head is important. When I was a boy, I had to go to church every Sunday; the priest had an incomprehensible Irish accent, so I’d tune out for the whole hour, just spending time in my own thoughts. I still do […]


Shop Talk |

"I can't go on. I'll go on": Writing when you're sure you can't

So November is halfway over–you’re half done writing your novel for NaNaoWriMo, right? Right? Whether you’re doing NaNoWriMo or not, there are always those days–or weeks, or months, or, let’s face it, years–when you just feel like you Cannot. Write. Anything. I don’t claim these are foolproof solutions, but here are my own personal tips to get started working again. 1. A journey of a thousand pages begins with opening your document. Maybe it’s just me–but 90% of the time, just opening up the right file seems like a big step. I find a million other places to click: Facebook, […]


Shop Talk |

Taboo book words: Readable and Plot?

Are “readable” and “plot-driven” now backhanded compliments for books? At The Star, Bert Archer argues that there’s nothing wrong with “readable” books (via): You could make snide comparisons to see-ability in art and hear-ability in music, but I think the best analogy might be livability and architecture. Can a house be excellent if it is not also livable? If you find yourself stumbling on the stairs because they’re not big enough for your feet, or if you get wet when it rains because there are cleverly carved holes in the roof, I would say you have a legitimate complaint against […]


Shop Talk |

Under the Influence… of Stuart Dybek

The first serious writing course I took was an undergraduate seminar on image taught by Stuart Dybek. Stuart stressed to us the importance of the well-chosen detail, the picture that would sear itself onto the reader’s retina all at once, creating a meaning-packet that was intuitively felt but also stood up to thematic interrogation. He gave an example that’s never left me: a drop of blood in a puddle of lime juice. I don’t know whether this image came off the top of his head or if it was taken from a published piece by another writer; I don’t remember […]


Shop Talk |

How to write a book–or how to return to one

Forget New Year’s Day: I think fall might be the time that writers make all their resolutions. As the summer winds to a close, students prepare for a new school year. Teachers polish old syllabi and draw up new ones. Publishers, editors, and agents return from the Hamptons. And writers everywhere make themselves promises to buckle down and get back to work. If you’re one of the latter, you may find these practical tips on writing a book helpful. Culled from 22 established writers, the list has lots of ideas for making THIS the year you finish your book at […]


Shop Talk |

How to Steal Like an Artist

Writer Austin Kleon offers this witty, yet sincere bit of advice on the writing life: “How to Steal Like an Artist (and 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me).” An excerpt: Your job is to collect ideas. The best way to collect ideas is to read. Read, read, read, read, read. Read the newspaper. Read the weather. Read the signs on the road. Read the faces of strangers. The more you read, the more you can choose to be influenced by. Identify one writer you really love. Find everything they’ve ever written. Then find out what they read. And read all […]


Shop Talk |

Writing lessons from the police blotter

Every writing student has probably heard Mark Twain’s adage “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between the lighting and the lightning bug.” But for a really striking example of the difference word choice can make, the Utne Reader turns to a surprising place: the police blotter. If versions of the event differ from [the reporting officer’s], these are recorded as witness statements. These can be summaries, but quotes are often included. The narrative voice at the center of an incident report is always emotionally neutral. He’s the ultimate reliable narrator. His […]


Shop Talk |

Thankful for NaNoWriMo, and you

Fiction Writers Review would not be here without you, our readers. We’re thankful for your insightful comments, engagement with the site and participation with this great community of writers and readers. As we sit down to hearty meals today, or maybe just another Thursday dinner if you’re in India or England, I’ve also got the NaNoWriMo champs on my mind. One week to go! Think of all the ground you’ve covered in the past 25 days, the dedication and discipline that’s been required, the problems you’ve worked out on the fly. Last week, Michael turned me on to GalleyCat’s inspired […]


Shop Talk |

Janet Fitch's Rules for Writers

We’re writers! We’re creative souls! We love original thought! But for some reason, we also love lists of rules—especially rules that tell us how to write (and how not to write). Call it one of life’s great paradoxes. The most widely disseminated list is probably Elmore Leonard’s rather prescriptive catalogue of things to avoid (“Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue”). Many authors, before and since Leonard, have tried to boil their advice down into neat bullet points, with varying success. But Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander, has posted her own “10 Rules for Writers,” and […]



Literary Partners