Your goals fell by the wayside when you got sick in February. You stared at your keyboard for five minutes three mornings in a row before the kids woke up a full hour earlier than usual. In the car, you tap the steering wheel at a red light feeling the world is mocking your lack of progress on your manuscript.
Are you in a slump? Or is this just a season? Can you figure out how to get out of a slump—or are you just stuck?
The most crushing piece of criticism authors can hear is that their main character is “flat” or “two-dimensional.” This is especially true for writers who have poured a lot of their personal experience into their protagonist’s journey. Conventional writing wisdom tells us that main characters need to be “dynamic” characters who evolve over the course of the story.
But what exactly does “dynamic” mean? If your protagonist doesn’t actually change all that much, does that make them flat and static? Are they, by default, a poorly written character?
A funny thing happens when you move.
You start out carefully. Each glass is conscientiously wrapped in six pages of newspaper. Each collectible is cushioned and boxed as if interred, and each box Sharpied with item, location, and name. Then a few days into this, something strange happens: you realize it doesn’t matter.
To put it another way, when you’re running out of time, you no longer have the luxury of faffing around. That’s when you really get down to business.
When I was in high school, a drama teacher that I had my sophomore year made everyone in my class keep a journal. He kept them in his office, but never read them, and we would write every morning we had class. Some of us took the exercise more seriously than others (there was a minimum three line requirement), but after that year, he gave us the notebooks to keep. I had enjoyed journaling so much that I continued.
It was a great way for me to get my thoughts recorded, although it wasn’t the prettiest writing I’ve ever done. If you’re looking for an alternative way to tell a story, there are a couple reasons to try a diary or epistolary format.
Nobody wants their writing to be described as “conventional” or “formulaic,” and in an effort to avoid such damning judgements, many young writers throw themselves past creative writing guides, the rules of writing, and all the catalogues of conventional wisdom, instead opting to carve their own path.
But before you follow suit and bend all the rules to write experimental fiction, there are a few things you need to know.
I’m currently working on my fifth nonfiction book and starting is always the hardest part. There are just so many options.
Should I write a preface? A prologue? An introduction? Should I find someone to write a foreword? Should I just start at chapter one?
If you’ve ever found yourself asking these questions, you’re not alone! And you’re in luck! I’ve asked these questions too and found some answers.
Let’s talk about the difference between each these and figure out which is best for you.
You are going to write a story. Yes, today is the day you are going to write a fiction story about someone. Your character and their development through the story is the heart of fiction.
Make your characters real, and your readers will care what happens to them because they can identify and sympathize with the character in a situation.
The stories we tell ourselves are like glasses through which we understand the world. They define the field we play on and guide the decisions we make, whether about book publishing or any other area of our lives.
Unfortunately, in the world of writing and publishing, there are a lot of false narratives floating around that create a romantic idea about the life of an author that can end in self-doubt, frustration, and stagnation. To avoid falling into the trap of bad stories, it’s important we pause and consider the world we exist in.
Happy Poetry Month! My students often scowl when I announce we’ll be reading a poem or covering *heaven forbid* an entire unit on poetry. Poetry often bothers people—it certainly bothers me in the best possible way.
Sometimes poetry feels lofty and pretentious and seems to say, “I know something you don’t know,” which is obnoxious, like an older sister taunting us. Some poetry makes us scratch our heads and say, “What the heck was that all about?”
But if we keep reading, poetry often moves us in ways a paragraph can’t. It requires a compression of language and meaning, tucked inside precise words that create concrete images. Poets, with a wink and a wry smile, trust us to read well. (Writers of all genres: we can learn so much from the poets!)
People are complicated. I know, that’s like saying, “Hey, fire is hot!” but when it comes to characterization, this needs to be said. Our tendency as authors is to stick imaginary people into tiny two-dimensional categories, forgetting that no human being fits into tiny two-dimensional categories.
One of the things that makes humans so confounded complicated is we are not logical.