Straight from the Quill — notes from the writing workshops

Let's Talk About Writing Dialogue

…Or, Let’s Talk About Writing About Talking.  Snort.  You know what I mean. Writing good dialogue isn’t easy, and bad dialogue is one of the things that immediately reveals the author as an amateur, not to be trusted by the reader. One of the things that can help you write better dialogue is knowing when…

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Why I Think The Workshop Works!

Once a month I teach a writing workshop — SHARPENING THE QUILL — here in Princeton.  We are a group of about twenty.  Some have been coming for years, others for just a few months.  Some are published, some are emerging, some are real beginners.  All are welcome. I love my students.  One of the…

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Revision & Editing

I haven’t posted in a little while, partly because I’ve been knee-deep in edits for my new novel.  I also taught a Sharpening the Quill Writing Workshop on this very subject and thought I’d share a little of it here with you.  Editing makes all the difference in your life as a writer.  You have…

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Writer's Notebook: Creating Emotion in the Reader

It’s that time of the month — by which I mean it’s the time of the month I spend editing my students’ work.  I enjoy this.  They’re good writers and always striving to be better.  It’s wonderful to be part of that process. One thing I notice emerging writers struggling with is how to create…

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To begin at the begining of things

One of the challenges all writers have is how to grab reader interest from the get-go.  Most begin their stories or novels with one of two things:  either a large thud of expository writing, or a battle/car chase/explosion of some sort (either physical or emotional) in which bad things happen to characters no one yet…

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What We Talk About When We Talk About 'Voice'

If you’re a writer or someone who loves literature, you probably read the title to this blog and understood immediately that I’m referencing Raymond Carver’s short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” How wonderful for a writer to be known simply by the syntax of a title, a single sentence, or…

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Narrative Braid — The Teller And The Tale

The other day in the Sharpening the Quill Writers’ Workshop I lead every month, I talked about what’s known as the Universal Story in narrative — the common structure beneath all kinds of narrative.  It has a triune form (as do most fairy tales and religious imagery, but that’s something for another day) and consists…

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Mini Workshop — Conflict in Narrative

Today’s blog is a mini-workshop for writers, on the subject of conflict in narrative. For emerging writers, one of the most important aspects of story-telling is conflict.  Something has to happen in a narrative, and what happens has to matter.  By which I mean that whatever your protagonist wants has to be IMPORTANT — it…

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Books, books, and . . .

I was teaching a writing workshop on Saturday and the subject of reading came up, as it often does.  Students are not surprised when I suggest that, if they really want to be writers, they also have to be readers. What does seem to surprise some of them, though, is how much reading I suggest…

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We Remain Faithful

“Talent is long patience.” — Gustave Flaubert A few years ago I lay on the couch in my living room, curled up into a fetal position, intermittently groaning and blinking back tears. I felt as though everything I had worked for had been ripped away from me, as though I had arrived at the party…

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