Six impossible things


Defending One’s Time

One of my writer-friends, back when she had several toddlers and a day job to fit writing around, used to say that no one else will defend your time for you. You have to do it yourself. Which means you have to make writing one of your […]

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The Hero’s Journey

The hero’s journey   If you’ve read much how-to-write advice in the past forty years, you’ve probably seen much talk of “The Hero’s Journey,” which is supposed to be the fundamental template or structure that lies underneath all great stories. It’s generally attributed to Joseph Campbell…but really, […]

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Talent and criticism

Last week, I kept stumbling across stories about the different responses people have to feedback.  The first couple came in the form of two versions of the old story about the violin maestro. He was approached by a young student who wanted the maestro’s judgement on his […]

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Missing Ursula le Guin

Ursula le Guin was one of the greats of the SF/F field. It hurts to have to write that sentence in the past tense, even though 88 years is a good run by anyone’s standards. I’ve been reading le Guin’s work since I was thirteen and Rocannon’s […]

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Making it Perfect

Everyone I know wants to do good work. Very few will admit to wanting their work to be perfect, either because they’ve had “nothing’s perfect” drummed into them, because they don’t want to appear to be saying that they are so good they can write perfect fiction […]

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Stringing beads

Writers use a variety of different metaphors to describe how they think about plot and structure. One that I’ve seen used quite a bit is “beads on a string” – that is, figuring out a plot is a process of lining up a series of beads/scenes in […]

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Getting the book out of the bucket

It’s a new year, and for the last week or so, people have been talking about New Year’s resolutions and bucket lists. “Write a book” seems to turn up with enormous frequency on lists like “The Top Fifty New Year’s Resolutions of 2015/16/17/18” and “100 Things You […]

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Happy Holidays!

I will be back with your regularly scheduled blog post next week. In the meantime, best wishes and happy whatever-you-celebrate.

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Flashbacks and Flashforwards

Flashbacks and flashforwards are essentially the same technique. They take a reader from the current moment of the story to a different time (the past, for a flashback; the future, for a flashforward) and then return to the current story moment. Flashbacks are the most commonly used, […]

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Unreliable narrators

In one sense, all narrators are unreliable. Whether first-person, tight-third, or omniscient, every narrator (like every human being) has his, her, or its own worldview and personal biases that affect the way they tell the story. Even if all of them were totally objective, the author, also […]

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