Category Archives: Writers Blog

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Connecting with the Disconnects

The questions always come up: Who’s your favorite poet? Who were your influences? Neither is easy because there are so many right answers and not all of them will be top-of-mind at that moment. Philip Levine. Naomi Shihab Nye. B. H. Fairchild. Jim Harrison, who’s known much more for his prose than his poetry. David St. John, both for his poetry and his incredible generosity as a teacher. Later that night in bed I always remember more names that I could have mentioned. You know, what I shoulda said.

But it’s not always the poets you admire who have the most influence on your writing…

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The New Frontier: Writing for Video Games

Today, we novelists still invent, but it’s an invention informed by three centuries of our predecessors’ work. If we are explorers, we are not Marco Polo or even Lewis and Clark, but their modern day descendants, exploring the last remaining uncharted corners of the novel form.

But I am not only a novelist: the bulk of my professional writing has been for video games, far younger as an art form, and still relatively unexplored as an art form. Exploring the possibilities of this new medium means finding narrative techniques unique to this form—stories that can only be told in the form of a game. Over the course of this piece, I’ll highlight a few of the unique stories that games have allowed me to tell, or to experience.

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Ten Things I Know About Writing…

Ten things I now know about writing that are guaranteed to help you; ten things I wish I had known when I began thirty years ago, here in one sweeping whizbang, sometimes in my words and sometimes the words of my betters, but, in any case, here’s what I’ve learned, every arrow in my quiver…

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Some Like It Hot

To add tension to a scene, make a character too hot or too cold. If you fiddle with a story’s thermostat, you can force even a wishy-washy Hamlet into action. This is because our bodies constantly send out feelers, via the senses. If our fingertips tingle with cold, we put on gloves. If our hair feels hot to the touch, we seek shade. The body’s response to temperature extremes can drive an entire plot.

I learned this lesson from a short Russian novel.

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Trusting Left Field

Connecting with the writer within at times demands that we open ourselves to the unknown. We must learn to trust “left field,” the part of writing that cannot be explained by any writing technique. Something from left field comes unexpectedly and may not seem to make sense. It reminds us that as creative writers, we are NOT in control. We must learn to step aside, a humble action to let the writing create its own path.

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Break the Line Early

I’ve argued that consistent use of a single, consistent measure for the lines of a poem is meaning-bearing in itself and one of the most significant choices a poet can make in the construction of her work.  Part of the legitimacy of this claim rests on the fact that to establish a consistent measure is to lay the ground against which any departure from that measure is striking and powerful;  another part rests on the fact that line-breaks are a critical focal point of verse construction.  It is evidence of the complexity of poem-making that I do not contradict these facts when I tell you that breaking your line early is a great way to start a poem.

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Crock-Pot Novelist

Slow-cookers have always amazed me. A hodge-podge of meat, vegetables and whatnot gets tossed in the Crock-Pot in the morning. The ingredients simmer together all day. Their flavors blend. Their aromas comingle and fill the house with the tang of possibility. Come dinner time, the medley has been transformed into a savory meal that brings the whole family to the table with anticipation. I love cooking this way.

My novel writing is also slow-cooked. A hodge-podge of ideas, research, themes and characters get thrown into the pot in the beginning. Then they simmer together, for a very long time, before they are transformed into the rich, savory story I want them to become. Slow-cooking a novel isn’t nearly as easy as slow-cooking chili, stew or gumbo. Yet, if the mix of ingredients is right, the result can be just as fulfilling.

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Leaving Space for the Illustrator

Every time someone tells me they wrote or want to write a children’s book but can’t move forward because they don’t have an illustrator, I can’t help wondering how many would-be authors are stymied by the same misconception.

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HELP! I CAN’T WRITE ANYMORE! 5 Tips to Write Again

Yeah, I hear ya. Happens to all of us. We’re not talking about your run-of-the-mill writer’s block, now, are we? No, you know what we’re really talking about: either a change in our actual, physical circumstances (a move, a marriage, a child . . . any major life change that’s utterly altered your schedule) or a change in our mental circumstances (no new ideas, novel stopped in its tracks . . . complete and total emotional breakdown . . . things like that).

So what do we do? Here are a few suggestions I hope will help. The bottom line is this: Don’t worry. It will pass. Have faith in that.

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Those Small “Eureka!” Moments

Writing successfully is sweat equity.  Butt in the chair, hour after hour, grinding out sentences and paragraphs and pages, none of which, one is grimly aware, may make the final cut when it comes time to edit.

That is especially true of crime fiction, because, really, how many different ways are there to kill someone?  And how many different motives can there be?  In the end it all comes down to money and sex.  At most a writer can create an original variation on a tried-and-true theme.

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Connecting with the Disconnects

July 28,2014 The questions always come up: Who’s your favorite poet? Who were your influences? Neither is easy because there are so many right answers and not all of them will be top-of-mind at that moment.... Continue Reading
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