Archive for November, 2011

Prompts Galore

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Too much tryptophan from the holiday weekend making your writing muscles a little weak?  Tighten them back up with this bank of prompts from Writer’s Digest.

A sampling of the ones I like:

- A picture on your mantle unexpectedly falls and crashes to the floor. As you go to pick it up, you notice a note hidden behind the picture. The message is from the future—and written by you. It instructs you to do something important. What does it say?

- You had planned to attend a friend’s birthday party and plugged her address into your GPS system, but the system guided you to somewhere else. Oddly enough, there was a man waiting for you at this mysterious place. “Sorry I had to rig your GPS, but this is urgent,” said the person.

- You get into work and find that your boss has left a voicemail message on your phone. The message is urgent. Though, what’s peculiar is that the message is not work related. Write this scene.


Job Talk NJ

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Thinking about a career change?  Get the real scoop from Job Talk NJ, a new blog dedicated to interviewing professionals from different industries.  The woman behind this project is Suzanne Kaplan, a fellow teacher and writer.  If you work in an interesting field (so far, the first two interviews are from a writer and a chef), reach out to Suzanne, and maybe you’ll be the next featured professional!


Lessons from a Writing Conference

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A couple of weeks ago, I attended a writing conference in New York that featured many industry professionals–agents, editors, and writers.  It was awesome.  Here are a few of the things I learned:

1. Change the font of a document you want to edit for spelling.  Even though the words are the same, the visual change will help you catch mistakes you might gloss over otherwise.

2. Never start a book with the protagonist waking up in the morning.  Snooze.

3. Frankfurt and London have two of the biggest book fairs in the world.

4. In earlier times, an agent could get a sense of a writer’s style from his query letter.  Now, due to the (disturbing) trend of writers hiring marketing services to write their letters, agents have become skeptical of the query’s authenticity.

5. Finding an agent is the first step on the very long road from manuscript to bookstore. One writer said her book was rejected by twenty-six editors before finding a home–and her book has done very well since then. Strength and courage are required at every step of this process.

6. Subscribe to and read as many literary magazines as possible.

7. Blunt feedback might hurt to hear, but it’s ultimately for the best.

8. The query letter is an art form to be mastered in and of itself.

9. If you want to publish a collection of short stories, you more or less have two options.  1) Publish at least half of the stories first in prominent magazines and journals, or 2) Write stories that can stand alone but also read like a novel (like Ms. Hempel Chronicles or Olive Kitteridge).

10. Industry professionals care about nurturing the careers of emerging writers. They are eager to find fresh talent and make many writerly dreams come true. Good news for us, MFA class of 2010!


Top Ten Reasons to Donate

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Great news:  I’ve reached 25% of my Kickstarter goal to fund the production of my literary magazine!  To honor this milestone, here are ten reasons why you (yes, YOU!) should consider donating to Killing the Angel magazine.

1.  Because local art is awesome art.

2.  Sweet contributor rewards (brand merchandise, Virginia Woolf books, free copies of the magazine…).

3. I’m planning on paying writers stipends for contributing.  None of this “no pay, but great clips/exposure!” stuff.

4.  Read the essay by Virginia Woolf that started it all.  I’ll wait.  …. Okay, so now you see why this concept has to be brought to life.

5.  Two words:  novella serialization.

6.  I’m already 25% of the way there, but if I don’t get to 100% of my goal, I don’t get any of it (oh, Kickstarter…).  Help me make it all the way!

7.  ”I just spent $30 on tickets to see the worst movie ever!  What a waste of money.”  ”Oh yeah?  I just donated $30 to Killing the Angel.”  ”Man!  I should have done that instead.”

8.  You know how everyone always wants to know about That Band before it gets to the Top 40 list?  It’s just as cool to get in on the ground floor with literary magazines.

9.  You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve improved the lives of lit nerds everywhere.

10.  Some of the coolest people I know have already donated–why not follow suit by clicking here and pledging?

To everyone that already donated–thank you so much for supporting and believing in my vision.  It means the world to me.  I’m looking forward to the day when I can send you the finished product!


Better Book Titles

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This month’s The Writer magazine featured the website Better Book Titles, a place where you can more accurately rename a book on its original cover art.  Some of my favorites:

Allen Ginsberg’s Collected Poems:  TMI
Dr. Seuss’s Oh!  The Places You’ll Go!:  Last Minute Graduation Gift
John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men:  Never Flirt With Puppy Killers
Antoine St. Exupery’s The Little Prince:  Dating a Flower Feels Very One-Sided
Lois Duncan’s Killing Mr. Griffin:  A Good Case for Grade Inflation
Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex:  How I Met Your Mother

Read the whole list here!


To NaNo or Not To NaNo

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It’s November 1, and that can mean only one thing… it’s officially National Novel Writing Month!

National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, is described as a “literary marathon” in today’s Chapter & Verse blog post (Christian Science Monitor).  The goal is to draft a 50,000 word novel by midnight on November 30.  This averages out to about 1,666 words per day.

I have mixed feelings about NaNoWriMo.  On the one hand, I’m all about setting and meeting concrete goals.  I believe in word counts, both daily and monthly!  And since the NaNoWriMo community takes a “we’re all in this together” approach, participants are instantly part of an enthusiastic, like-minded group–something I find extremely valuable in my own writing life.  It also is a chance to stop thinking, “maybe one day” and start thinking, “today’s the day.”

However, I’ve had moments in my own writing life when I realized I was churning out words every day that weren’t building to anything significant.  I’d write scenes and dialogue that went nowhere, and for a while, I’d think, “Well, at least I wrote today.  At least I’m meeting my word count.”  But I think it can be equally effective to take time to plan a story, to put thought into your characters and plot before constructing the narrative.  Donna Tartt has said that she writes very few drafts of her books because she crafts her sentences one at a time, writing and rewriting each one until she is satisfied with it.  On the other hand, I once had a writing teacher that would always overwrite her first drafts, then cut up to 20,000 words to get her ideal manuscript length.  Bottom line:  every writer has a different way of meeting success.

Therefore, on this first day of NaNoWriMo 2011, I ask you:  Do you have a writing system in place that works for you?  If so, I recommend sticking with it.  But if you need a reason to sit down and commit to a project you’ve been thinking about but never started, I say go for it!