Political Fiction?

Writing Techniques

Some suggest fiction can sway politics. Others think not. Two well-known writers slug it out over this question in the New York Times “Bookends.”

The line between fiction and nonfiction is more blurry than many people like to admit. Sometimes, political writing that claims to be nonfiction is actually fiction. The political power of such fiction-as-nonfiction is undeniable: “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” stoked the fires of European anti-Semitism in the decades before the Holocaust; American news coverage of the Gulf of Tonkin incident facilitated the escalation of American military involvement in Vietnam; supposedly true accounts about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction contributed to the disastrous invasion of that country 12 years ago.

For Mohsin Hamid, its: Fiction can say publicly what might otherwise appear unsayable. Conversely, for Francine Prose, its: Perhaps the clearest case of literature effecting political change is Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.” So who is right? What do you believe vis-à-vis fiction’s impact on politics?

Read more here

The “Job” of Writing

Writing Techniques

Is writing a job – or a calling? For those of you who write, it is a question most of you ask yourselves – often quite frequently. And to help inform your internal dialogue, it’s often good to hear from the pros. In a recent “Bookends” piece in the New York Times, Benjamin Moser and Dana Stevens slug it out.

Benjamin Moser’s opening gambit is: Even the best writing won’t have the immediate, measurable impact of a doctor’s work, or a plumber’s. Dana Stevens takes the opposite tact: Of course a writer is going to lean toward saying writing is a calling — that’s our job. So where is the truth?

For me, writing is nearer to Stevens’ end of the spectrum. It’s a passion and somehow I can’t imagine getting inspiration to take any writing to the next level if I looked at it merely as a way to pay the rent.

But you’ll have to decide for yourself and as a start, you might check out what Benjamin Moser and Dana Stevens have to say in their “Bookends” piece. I’d welcome your thoughts as to where you wind up!

Read more about both sides of this argument here

 

Nora Roberts!

Writing Techniques

Nora Roberts is one of America’s most well-known bestselling authors. She has written more  than 209 romance novels. She writes as J. D. Robb for the In Death series, and has also written under the pseudonyms Jill March and for publications in the U.K. as Sarah Hardesty.

Nora Roberts was the first author to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame.  Her novels had spent a combined 861 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, including 176 weeks in the number-one spot.

Read more about Nora Robert’s writing journey here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/books/review/nora-roberts-by-the-book.html

Ann Tyler’s Writing Words of Wisdom

Writing Techniques

Ann Tyler is one of today’s most frequently read and endearing writers. Her followers are legion. She shares her writing secrets as well as what she reads and especially what happens when she reads her own books in a recent piece in the New York Times. Among her words of wisdom:

Who I am today is all because of a picture book that was given me on my fourth birthday: Virginia Lee Burton’s “The Little House.” I remember the first time my mother read it to me — how its message about the irreversible passage of time instantly hit home. From then on, I seem to have had a constant awareness of the fact that nothing lasts forever, and that someday I would miss what I was now taking for granted. That’s a valuable insight to go through life with.

Read more about Ann Tyler’s secrets here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/books/review/anne-tyler-by-the-book.html?_r=0

Fiction Turmoil

Writing Techniques

It is an understatement to say the publishing world has been in turmoil for the last decade – and especially for the last five years. Publishers have merged, entire book chains have folded, e-books are surging in popularity and “self-publishing,” once second-tier at best is now a legitimate route to success.

But the churn should make all writers extremely wary, even when they grab the supposed gold ring of signing with an established publisher. Atticus Lish is the poster child for this.

Atticus Lish’s Preparation for the Next Life got the kind of reception that first-time novelists only dream about. The gritty debut novel, set in the violent, dangerous margins of New York City, was one of 2014’s genuine literary sensations, earning ecstatic reviews and landing on many top-10 lists. One critic called the novel, “a tour de force of urban naturalism” and “a love story that’s as bold and urgent as any you’ll read this year.” But in a stark illustration that fiction writing often doesn’t pay, Mr. Lish has so far made only $2,000 for his novel, which took five years to write.
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Happy Writing

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We all want to be happy. And most of us work at it in many ways. But have you tried writing? It just may be the most beneficial thing you can do.

The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve our disposition help reduce symptoms among cancer and other patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits, and even boost memory.

Want to try it? There are some fabulous “tactics, techniques and procedures” that will help you get started on the journey. Read more here

Stepping Up Your Writing

Want to step up your writing and take it to next level? Here is what one writer suggests – reading at least 15 minutes a day.

I discovered that a reading regimen, even if only 15 minutes a day, requires discipline. William James wrote that discipline is needed in the formation of any new habit. In this case, the habit was reading regularly and outside my comfort zone. I often had to fight against an inclination to skip a day. But the relative brevity of the selections kept me on track—a hint to teachers who assign too much and thereby encourage cribbing and cramming. With a 15-minute assignment, I could push on, knowing that the end was near

Read more here:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/paula-marantz-cohen-a-year-of-15-minute-daily-doses-from-the-harvard-classics-1419637070?KEYWORDS=paula+marantz+cohen

The Renaissance of Novelizations

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How do movies and television shows live on: with novelizations. This “reverse flow” method of the normal publishing and media methodology is back – with a vengeance.

Studios and producers have long used novelizations as a way to capture fans’ attention between television seasons, or installments of blockbuster film franchises. For publishers, tie-in books have become cash cows that offer instant brand recognition and access to huge fan bases for vastly larger media. One of the longest running, most successful tie-in series, the “Star Wars” novels, dates to 1976 and now has more than 125 million copies in print.

Read more here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/05/business/media/popular-tv-series-and-movies-maintain-relevance-as-novels.html

Go Wild with Writing

Writing Techniques

Want to write something fabulous in 2015? Most of us do…but we run into so many barriers. It makes what should be a fun and enervating task seem daunting and even overwhelming.

In his new book, The Sense of Style, Steve Pinker helps us get past some of those speed bumps. Read it…it just might inspire you to do your best work. Here is part of what a review says:

The cause of most bad writing, Pinker thinks, is not laziness or sloppiness or overexposure to the Internet and video games, but what he calls the curse of knowledge: the writer’s inability to put himself in the reader’s shoes or to imagine that the reader might not know all that the writer knows — the jargon, the shorthand, the slang, the received wisdom. He may underestimate a little how much deliberately bad writing there is, writing meant to confuse and obfuscate. Just look at the fine print at the bottom of your next credit card bill or listen to a politician in Washington reading a speech about the tax code.

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Art Meets Life

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What part does writing a good narrative play in your life? What if you don’t want to publish a book or even a story or a blog post? Should you be able to tell a good story? Yes!

Harvard Business Review called it a strategic tool with “irresistible power.” What exciting new 21st-century technology is this?

The age-old art of storytelling — something humans have done since they could first communicate. So why has it become this year’s buzzword? And what is its new value?

In these days of tougher-than-ever job searches, competition for crowd-funding and start-ups looking to be the next Google or Facebook, it’s not enough just to offer up the facts about you or your company to prospective employers or investors. Or even to your own workers.

You need to be compelling, unforgettable, funny and smart. Magnetic, even. You need to be able to answer the question that might be lingering in the minds of the people you’re trying to persuade: What makes you so special?

You need to have a good story.

Read more here