Posts tagged ‘fiction’

June 22, 2011

How much surprise do you like in a story?

How much surprise do you like in a story? I like a story to be unexpected at every turn. It doesn’t need to have multiple or parallel plots or one plot with many trailing sub-plots, but I find it’s the smaller surprises that help define a story and its characters. In my own life I find a competition of motives and possible actions which give spontaneity a chance to bloom. I expect any new detail to have its own story, so I pick and choose to create the characters and the themes. Among those things, I like to choose the one least probable.

June 12, 2011

Tim Gager Announces the Debut of Printer’s Devil Review

Tim Gager, the principal of the Dire Reader Series, announces a new literary journal: Printer’s Devil Review (PDR). He’s its Editorial Consultant and he helped find authors to submit to the journal. Thomas Dobson created it along with his staff of editors. It’s is an open-access journal of stories, poems, and visual art. They aim to provide emerging writers and artists with greater access to publishing. For the reader they hope to deliver new voices and visions. The journal has all the contents downloadable on PDF files from the Website. If the story of Kate Racculia is an example, he’s met his promise to showcase good writing. I was once a printer’s devil (a printing assistant) and had my own Red Howl Press when “press” meant paper under my feet and ink under my fingernails.

June 9, 2011

The music in writing flows from the story itself

I don’t stand in line to buy an album of music I already own. Also, I don’t look for books that read exactly like Chekhov, as good as he was. I want something unique, a story that is specifically a new tune with a different use of harmony, and most of all: with a different rhythm. The only way I know to create such a thing is to find it in myself. My own mind is what I trust to synthesize all those elements in a story to make it all work together. The music comes from the imagined story itself, the words come from that same place. The intellectual mind is important, but not any more important than the sub-conscious or even unconscious parts of the brain. The more of myself I can access to add to a story, the better it will be. Listening to music can help (I listen to Afro-Cuban music while I write my Caribbean story), but writing is its own music so it helps me to hear it aloud . . . and to listen.

June 7, 2011

My ten favorite rules for writing fiction

My ten favorite rules for writing fiction
(Partly derived from: this Guardian article which includes the “Top Ten” lists
the authors: Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James, AL Kennedy)
The List:
1. The most important thing in fiction is sincerity: don’t fake it.
2. If it sounds like writing, read it out loud, then rewrite it.
3. Feel your anxiety—it’s an important part of the process.
4. Keep a grip on reality with a good meditation practice.
5. Read. Read all the best books: look them up.
6. Most writers don’t know how to use an em-dash: look that up.
7. Spend most of your time not writing. Readers don’t care about words,
they want to hear your imagination speak.
8. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Kill good ideas with better ones.
9. Never fall in love with your own writing.
10. Write a book you’d love to read.

June 3, 2011

Tesora and Actual Pirates of the Caribbean

My novel, Tesora, is based on as much research into the facts of the era in which pirates roamed the seas of the Caribbean as I could find. Here is some of that information:

David Cordingly, from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, is author of the definitive book on pirates, Under the Black Flag.

He says that in the years between 1715 and 1725, there was an explosion of piracy in the Caribbean that was comparable in some ways with the recent outbreak of piracy in the seas off Somalia.

In contrast to the fictions displayed in the movies, the majority of the eighteenth-century pirates were working-class sailors: naval deserters, redundant merchant seamen, and former privateers. They were not the heroic, romantic characters portrayed in the movies by Johnny Depp’s Captain Sparrow. They were hard men notorious for their foul language, heavy drinking, and casual violence.

Also, it was true that “Negroes and mulattoes were present on almost every pirate ship, and only rarely did the many merchants and captains who commented on their presence call them slaves.” Kinkor even presents examples of blacks who were leaders of predominantly white crews.

Yet, Cordingly also wrote that conversely, “pirates shared the same prejudices as other white men in the Western world. They regarded black slaves as commodities to be bought and sold, and used them as slaves on board their ships for the hard and menial jobs.”

Information for this article from:
And

May 26, 2011

If you don’t have the guts to finish a novel, is there another way?

For $12,000 you can get Geoff Dyer to show you how to finish a manuscript. You’ll have to jet to the UK and sit in a classroom for nine months. If all you ended up with was a meandering text-vacation through a Dyer-like brain, was it worth it? For my money nothing exceeds the process of putting ass to chair, pen to paper, and heart to mind. Of course, it won’t get you an advanced diploma in creative writing from UEA, The University of East Anglia, but I don’t remember Scott Fitzgerald needing one to explore his ambition or Willa Cather to explore her American frontiers. The next novel I read had better be something unlike anything I’ve read before. Anything like anything is a waste of time to me. I don’t even like to read fine writers who tend to repeat themselves too much. Someone once said a writer has one basic story to tell. This may emerge through many novels, but still a good writer will make each one new. Whether it’s a muse or a certain gut-feeling that propels the writer, I want, as the reader, to be able to touch that spirit in some way as I read. There should be music between those lines—can you find that in classroom?

May 21, 2011

Against Any Theory of Literary Theories

Coming to any conclusion regarding the value of any particular literary work or group of literary works against any other standard, whether it be an educational, political, or economic one, is simplistic and ludicrous. It’s as intelligent as rating the quality of paintings by the total number of brush strokes.

Let’s see, that’s Rembrandt with 11,534 strokes versus Jackson Pollock with 0. Or to make a literary comparison: it’s Tolstoy with 450,000 words versus Emily Dickinson with 3,250. Now, how fun is that? But if you want to keep warm during a Boston winter while avoiding news of American deaths in Afghanistan, read War and Peace and feel smug against the comparison with Moscow and Napoleon. If you want your brain to toy with the many times your feelings have reacted to a snake in the grass, read Dickinson’s poem about it. The joy Tolstoy and Dickinson had it creating those writings is there for all to read again and again. There is no way to create a definite product from that, but readers do keep coming back to it.

Ultimately, art cannot be put into any box besides its own creation. It is profoundly anti-establishment, anti-ideological and of course, anti-narrow-minded. Marjorie Garber says: “Literature is a process rather than a product, and if it progresses, it does so in a way that often involves doubling back upon a track or meandering by the wayside rather than forging ahead, relentlessly and single-mindedly, toward some imagined goal or solution.”

May 9, 2011

How to Write the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

I have to agree with Jennifer Egan about how spending too much energy on a project in any one day can affect the rhythm of the prose. I’ve found it can, too, but a good nap can start you up all over again. But then I don’t have two children to raise—I’m so lucky for that.

She, the writer of “A Visit From The Goon Squad,” attempts to hand-write five to seven pages a day. Some days she writes that much in an hour or two, sometimes it takes as much as four. She usually spends the extra time avoiding getting those pages written. She refuses to write more than that total because she finds it drains her energy too much and that badly affects its rhythm.

May 9, 2011

A Few Words about Good Writing

The spoken and unspoken seconds of speech make writing real. Its reasoning and its opinions and its judgments make good writing come alive: it’s intimately personal to the reader that way. It’s the sarcasm and wit and sparring and opposite emotion between speakers which displays the most precise and appropriate words. Each dialogue or monologue must be one that’s awesome to read and awful to end, so that whatever follows pales in contrast for some time: “I remember every word he said, so I forget everything I’ve heard since we spoke.” Write speech that is as vivid as live action.

May 5, 2011

Progress is progress every day

I’m happy to say that all is going well with my new novel, Tesora. Hopefully, I will complete its rough draft by August 1st at 1:00 p.m. This will be my third novel in as many years. I love that feeling of confidence knowing I can succeed every day by making progress on it. My ultimate plan is to finish another forty before I’m done although by then, I’m sure the number of planned novels will be eighty. I can’t stop coming up with new ideas: one problem is deciding which one. The main goal is really to excel and improve with each new day of writing—it’s not a goal of perfection so much as the goal of opening up to the world in my imagination and trying to join a wider world full of imagination. Thanks, readers.

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