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Don’t Write What You Know - Magazine

Don’t Write What You Know - Magazine
Why fiction’s narrative and emotional integrity will always transcend the literal truth Every Wednesday, I teach an introductory fiction workshop at Harvard University, and on the first day of class I pass out a bullet-pointed list of things the students should try hard to avoid. Don’t start a story with an alarm clock going off. Don’t end a story with the whole shebang having been a suicide note. The idea panics them for two reasons. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should admit I’ve been accused of writing what I know on a good many occasions. The facts are these: I was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, the part of the country where most every word of fiction I’ve published takes place. Instead of thinking of my experiences as structures I wanted to erect in fiction, I started conceiving of them as the scaffolding that would be torn down once the work was complete. I don’t know the origin of the “write what you know” logic. Stories aren’t about things. Related:  Writing Tips and articles

Eight Secrets Which Writers Won’t Tell You Image from Flickr by Lazurite This is not particularly relevant to the post, but I’m getting an awful lot of comments telling me, often a little snarkily, “it’s ‘THAT’ not ‘WHICH’”. The “don’t use which for restrictive clauses” rule comes (as far as I can tell) from Strunk and White. Plenty of authors, including Austen, have used “which” exactly as I use it in the title. It’s very commonly used like this here in England, so I’m guessing my comments are coming from US readers. There was never a period in the history of English when “which” at the beginning of a restrictive relative clause was an error. I thought about putting “that” in the title – but I like the sound of “which” between “secrets” and “writers”. And with that out of the way, enjoy the post! A few years ago, I’d look at published writers and think that they were somehow different from me. They were real writers. I’m going to go through eight secrets. Secret #1: Writing is Hard The truth is, though, that writing is hard.

How to Start Writing When You Don’t Feel Like It by Michael As a professional editor and copywriter, my biggest problem with clients is not that I get poorly written material from them. Oh no, not by a long shot. My biggest problem is I don’t get anything from them at all. I don’t mind the grammar or spelling or punctuation mistakes that my clients make. If you care about something, you can probably talk about it, if you can talk at all. When writing is hard for you, how can you get started? If you have to write about your business but can’t get started, pretend your husband wants to know what you do for a living. You may not be impressed with what comes out.

The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight The Misconception: You celebrate diversity and respect others’ points of view. The Truth: You are driven to create and form groups and then believe others are wrong just because they are others. Source: “Lord of the Flies,” 1963, Two Arts Ltd. In 1954, in eastern Oklahoma, two tribes of children nearly killed each other. The neighboring tribes were unaware of each other’s existence. Separately, they lived among nature, played games, constructed shelters, prepared food – they knew peace. Scientists stood by, watchful, scribbling notes and whispering. These two tribes consisted of 22 boys, ages 11 and 12, whom psychologist Muzafer Sherif brought together at Oklahoma’s Robber’s Cave State Park. He was right, but as those cultures formed and met something sinister presented itself. Sherif and his colleagues pretended to be staff members at the camp so they could record, without interfering, the natural human drive to form tribes. Soon, the two groups began to suspect they weren’t alone.

So, You Want to be a Travel Writer Six tips to get you started from veteran travel writer Julia Steinecke. Around the world in 80 travel-writing assignments? Only if you're lucky. Travel writer Julia Steinecke sheds some light on one of the world's most appealing and misunderstood professions. Travel writing is... huddling in my luxury hotel room over a bowl of instant noodles that I boiled in the coffee maker. Travel writing has the kind of glamour attached to it that makes people think you're willing to do it just for the cool factor. Travel writing is knowing the best place to sleep on the floors of several major airports in Latin America. Travel writing is suddenly realizing I haven't left my home for two days because I've been sitting in front of my computer writing sponsorship requests to airlines, hotels and tourism boards. And, yes, travel writing is seeing the world for cheap, hiking through deserts, cloud forests and traffic, meeting villagers, grandmothers, partiers and activists from every continent. 1. 2. 3. 4.

Creative Writing and Fear - How to overcome the fear of writing I am not the first writing teacher to see the relationship between the personal and spiritual journey and the journey of the writer. Natalie Goldberg and Gail Sher have both pointed out the similarity. The Zen sayings “how you do anything is how you do everything” and “wherever you go, there you are” have become almost commonplace, to the point that we might not hear them any more. The point is that writing will bring up all our issues: self-doubt, concerns about criticism and humiliation, and so on. All our closets will be emptied out for inspection, and not just for ourselves to inspect, but for every agent, editor, and reader to judge. No wonder we are afraid to write. The spiritual (read: writing) journey is like “getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands” writes Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron in When Things Fall Apart. Fear alerts us to the reality of change and the fact that we don’t know what will happen next.

Brandon Sanderson: Sanderson's Second Law A few years back, I wrote an essay on creating magic systems that I titled Sanderson’s First Law. It had to do with the nature of foreshadowing as it relates to solving problems with magic. In that essay, I implied that I had other “laws” for magic systems that I’d someday talk about. I’ll start, however, by noting that none of these “laws” are absolute. These work for me. The Law Sanderson’s Second Law can be written very simply. Limitations > Powers (Or, if you want to write it in clever electrical notation, you could say it this way: though that would probably drive a scientist crazy.) Let’s do some explaining here. If I were to ask you about Superman’s magic, you’d probably talk about his ability to fly, his super strength, the lasers he can shoot from his eyes. However, is this what makes Superman interesting? I’d put forth that it is not. Think about it for a moment. But why is he weak to kryptonite? Superman is not his powers. What This Means for Writers This core is not original.

Can Men Discuss Sexism? “If a male is intrinsically incapable of contributing valid criticism of a feminist critique, then what is the point of a male trying to understand the critique at all?” ~ Paul Crider, in a measured response to the Sady Doyle post I tried to give a measured response to the other day. This whole thing has been bothering me way too much, and so I should probably just listen to words of wisdom, pack up my things, and go home – but I just can’t. I’m a damn fool probably. I really want to engage people who hold views different from my own, to see why we disagree on something when we probably shouldn’t, or even when we probably should. I mean, yeah I’m a white male so there’s plenty I don’t understand about violence toward women. And I do think about it, quite a lot actually. Bakker and Martin, I believe, are critiquing patriarchy and sexism and rape, not glorifying it, in ways that fantasy authors have basically dropped the ball on for a long time. Here’s Sady in her comment thread:

Ink - Quotes about writing by writers presented by The Fontayne Group Writing "I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark." Henry David Thoreau "Writing is an adventure." Winston Churchill "Know something, sugar? "Whether or not you write well, write bravely." "The first rule, indeed by itself virtually a sufficient condition for good style, is to have something to say." Baby Boomers Write By Audrey Owen Are you are a baby boomer visiting this site? You are or could become a baby boomer writer. As a writer and an editor, I notice that baby boomer writers sit in the enviable position of looking both backward and forward. If we look back on our lives we discover, sometimes to our utter shock, that we grew up in historical times. Anything from our young lives counts as history. There is a place for memoir in the world of literature. Baby boomer writers can look ahead as well as back. If you think you may need to reinvest some of your money to prepare better for retirement, put your research to work in a secondary stream by writing a book or Web site for others in the same position. Are you facing an empty nest? Can you put your past and future together? As baby boomer writers we can use where we've been and look into the future, enriching both those coming after and those who have gone before us. If you are a baby boomer writer, submit your work for a sample edit here.

Brandon Sanderson: Sanderson's First Law Introduction I like magic systems. That’s probably evident to those of you who have read my work. For a while now, I’ve been working on various theories regarding magic systems. I’d like to approach the concept of magic in several different essays, each detailing one of the ‘laws’ I’ve developed to explain what I think makes good magic systems. The Law Sanderson’s First Law of Magics: An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic. When I applied to be on the programming of my very first Worldcon (following my sale of Elantris, but before the book was actually released) I saw that they were doing a “How does the magic work?” It my very first panel at the convention. I said something I took as a GIVEN. “Well,” I said. And every other person on the panel disagreed with me violently. I was dumbfounded. Then, I thought about it for a while. I disagree with this soundly—but in Mr. Soft Magic Hard Magic The Middle Ground

The Forge :: Narrativism: Story Now by Ron Edwards <> Copyright 2003 Adept Press Acknowledgments are due to Mike Holmes, Ralph Mazza, Christopher Kubasik, Jesse Burneko, Paul Czege, Clinton R. Nixon, Vincent Baker, Seth Ben-Ezra, M. J. Young, Chris Chinn, Pete Darby, Gordon C. This is the third of three essays building upon the topics addressed in "GNS and other matters of role-playing theory" ( This one is about Narrativist play, which is simultaneously the least and most problematic of the Creative Agendas I've described. In the first two essays, I began presenting an overall model of role-playing, but piecemeal and in stumbling verbal form. History of the term The Threefold Model for role-playing included the term Dramatism, as presented by John Kim at his Threefold Model ( webpage. I've tried to emphasize this new outlook throughout these three supportive essays. The foundation: Exploration and more Story Story Now

Monologue: I’m Comic Sans, Asshole. [Originally published June 15, 2010.] Listen up. I know the shit you’ve been saying behind my back. You think I’m stupid. You think I’m immature. You don’t like that your coworker used me on that note about stealing her yogurt from the break room fridge? People love me. When people need to kick back, have fun, and party, I will be there, unlike your pathetic fonts. It doesn’t even matter what you think. Enough of this bullshit. Available in our store:The “I’m Comic Sans, Asshole” Mug

7 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Start Writing Procrastination is like leaving the headlights on in a parked car: it’s a slow drain on your mental battery. The longer the lights are on, the harder it is to get the engine started. By continually avoiding doing something you know you need to do, procrastination sucks the energy out of you. This is doubly true for a task like writing. Procrastination is usually a symptom of some other problem: poor preparation, perfectionism, a fear of failure or rejection, or just a simple lack of motivation and interest. The reason you left your headlights on isn’t important. • Organize Your Ideas - Staring at a blank screen with no support materials or written notes is like building a house without a blueprint: the end result will be a mess and it could kill someone. • Freewrite – Forget about logical flow for a minute. • Set a deadline – Deadlines add a sense of urgency to your writing task, giving you a clear and compelling reason to finish a piece. Seth M. Related Articles:

Great SF authors share their biggest writing setbacks — and how they triumphed I'm a (minor) published SF writer, and one major setback I had was not knowing what people meant when they told me to "show, don't tell." It took Chuck Palahniuk linked through Tumblr of all places to explain it beautifully to me in language any aspiring writer could understand: "In six seconds, you’ll hate me. But in six months, you’ll be a better writer. From this point forward—at least for the next half year—you may not use “thought” verbs. The list should also include: Loves and Hates." There's more, which you can find if you google "Chuck Palahniuk thought verbs" but basically Chuck is saying that telling is when you use thought verbs instead of allowing the scene to be shown through the character's actions.