Holding the Whole Thing

About midway through my first draft, I became intimate with a hurdle I posit is probably specific to the novelist. How could I hold the entirety of my novel—of the world I was creating—in my mind? In Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, Block addresses this issue as one that stops many would-be novelists in their tracks. He immediately reassures […]

What Does it Mean to Be a Storyteller?

“If you’re going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all.” -Joseph Campbell “Come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in storytelling, and our story shall be the education of our heroes.” -Plato We have been reading Lawrence Block’s Telling Lies for Fun and Profit as our group selection for the craft of writing […]

Learning to Read like a Writer

Reading and writing are akin to inhalation and exhalation. Technique can be taught, but the essence—the art—of writing is not a one-to-one transferrable skill. It takes so much of who we are, what we have experienced, to make writing that resonates. It is deeply personal. An internal probing of our own experiences and sensations. So, how do we learn to […]

. . . and Where?

On to the question of place. Much like time, place is an under-examined element of creating a compelling and intelligible story. I, for one, was not sure how to get my character’s bodies gracefully around the space of my fictional world. There was a lot of walking into rooms, and climbing into cars, and other mundanities in my first draft. […]

When?

Who? What? When? And Where? Somewhere in elementary school we were all told that these are the questions you must answer to write a story. I want to focus on the last two, which often get overlooked. Without them, a story is incomplete. The seemingly trivial matters of time and place are two elements of storytelling which are as integral to […]

An Audience of One

I have heard two competing pieces of advice about considering your audience when writing a novel. One: define your audience. Be specific. You have to know who you’re addressing in order to create a cohesive work. Two: don’t worry about who you’re writing to. In fact, try to forget that you have any desire to publish the book and have […]

Writing to Discover What We Know

The title of this post is borrowed from the famous quote by Flannery O’Connor, “I write to discover what I know.” It is one of the truly mysterious pieces of the writing process that through it I come to know my own mind better. Each successive rewrite seems to take me deeper, closer to the reality of what is happening […]

Writer’s Block

When words abandon a writer, it can feel catastrophic. But, it happens to all of us—the professional and the amateur, the published and the unpublished, the new and the seasoned. The question is how do we treat this most devastating of writing ailments? Firstly, we must establish that writer’s block exists. There is some controversy over this. According to Anne […]

Developing Secondary Characters

The Agile Writers approach to writing a novel focuses clearly around the hero figure and their story. But, the more you step into the world of your hero, the more you recognize the need for fully developed secondary characters. The hero can only have as much depth as his or her world, after all. So, while deliberate strategies for fleshing […]

Drafting 1, 2, 3 . . .

I have recently begun the second draft of my Agile Writers novel. For some, it seems, the second draft is a breeze. They go through and plug in the edits they got from their wonderful critique partners, humming along and spitting out fifteen or twenty pages a week. This has not been my experience. I have had a very difficult […]