Category Archives: writing

DIY Writing Internship: Searching for the Ultimate Story

Why are some stories “great” and other stories “shite”?

The answer is simple to understand, and difficult to use. Great stories pull us in (they make us feel part of the tale) and crappy stories do not.

So, what pulls us in? This has to do with whether the story opens our senses to something we crave. Something that we always want more of. Like heroism. Hero stories are perhaps the oldest story form around. And we can’t get enough of them, even today.

Of course, as Jung and Campbell observed in the last century. heroism takes many shapes.

From Achilles to Hemingway, one shape is the courageous hero, battling against the slings and arrows that the real world tosses our way. Hamlet’s great soliloquy is a reflection on the choice to take that role

The pathos here is that the call to heroism may be a fool’s errand. BTW, in Elizabethan times, it was better understood that the ghost of Hamlet’s father was an agent of the devil. Where does one summon up the courage to act knowing that the action is meaningless or worse?

But fear not! Even here, we can be drawn into the story. For heroism is found as well in the call to duty. Loyalty to a cause, even if the cause is a lost one.

Loyalty, for example, to a king, even if the king is a personal disgrace. Think of Richard Burton playing King Henry II’s chancellor in Becket.  Becket finds a higher meaning in serving the Lord, which gives him the strength of ten men. This scene depicts the sort of heroism that we might all aspire to

So, dear reader, where do we find ourselves now? What sort of heroism do we crave in the year of our Lord 2020? Or does this all seem a bit old fashioned. Something that no longer touches us? And if that is so, what does touch us now?

DYI Writing Internship – Books for Writers

Over the past weeks, I have been compiling lists of books that various writers (and others) think offer the best insights into how to master the craft of writing.

Here is another list, from “The Write Life”.

Of special note

  • This list breaks the topic into some useful sub-categories
    • How to become a better writer
    • Overcoming the struggles of writing
    • Writing as an  art form
    • Making money by writing
  • You see Steven King’s book “On Writing” here, and on just about every list. That may tell you something
  • “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott is a runner up to King

I am thinking about this in terms of

  • Becoming a writer (steps that enable anyone to think like a writer and thus empower you to start writing ever day)
  • Creating  stuff (how to build up various types of writings – stories, articles, etc.)
  • Upgrading what you write –  (how to edit)
  • Sustaining the effort (how to define and achieve success as a writer)



DIY Summer Internship on Creative Writing

Al Wenger posted that lots of students are having trouble finding internships this summer. His rec – DYI it. Pick a learning experience that you believe will help you, gather some resources, and go for it!

While this may not sound optimal (for example, you may not get to rub shoulders with the great and mighty), it may be the best you can do!

Full Disclosure: I am not a college studentm. On the other hand, I am a believer in LLL – Life Long Learning. So just for fun, I am going to do a DYI summer internship on creative writing, and I will post on my learning here on this blog.

The first step — just what is it that I plan to learn? Hmmm … there are lots of choices out there. Here are just a few that pop up in my mind:

  • How to develop a creative writing voice
  • How to develop characters and dialog
  • How to build tension in plots
  • How to edit
  • How to get published

I have no idea which of the above would be more interesting. So I will just go with the first one that came to mind — how to develop a creative writing voice.

The first step — I will be assembling materials on this (books and articles) that I will use as resources, and I will start putting together a work plan.

Here is my initial list of books on hand that I will be using

  • The Art of the Novel (Milan Kundera)
  • Conversations with Kafka (Gustav Yanouch)
  • How to Argue and Win Every Time (Gerry Spence)
  • If You Want to Write (Brenda Ueland)
  • The Reader Over Your Shoulder (Graves & Hodge)
  • The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing
  • Will Cather on Writing
  • Writers on Writing (Breadloaf Anthology)
  • The Writing Life – (Annie Dillard)
  • Writing Without Teachers (Peter Elbow)

I will be picking up this book among others (as I find useful)

  • Bird by Bird Anne Lamott

Stay tuned!

A Writer’s Life in Barcelona

From  Roads & Kingdoms

Writer Matt Goulding on his city, his life, and his work.

The post starts off this way

A warehouse toward the edge of Barcelona. On the loading dock they smoke cigarettes sprinkled with hash, and drink beers from plastic cups. Inside, a hundred or so people stand toward the stage, nodding thoughtfully to a mashup hiphop and acid jazz. Beards, knit hats, urban scarfs. This is a early-aughts reunion episode, starting with this concert, the one-night revival of long-dormant open-mic series from years ago in Barcelona. One of the MCs who used to frequent those nights years and years ago is back on the mic. It’s Matt Goulding, who still calls Barcelona home, and is still writing, is writing, at least part of the time, as my partner and co-founder at Roads & Kingdoms.

And it leads up to a podcast. Enjoy!

The Writer’s Life; Hemingway and the Damned Pleasure of Just Being Somebody!

For quite a while, I have been thinking about the literary inheritance of Papa Hemingway. He was a great star … but is he a great mentor?

My initial thought has been that Hemingway is best appreciated as a man of his times. In those days “macho” was in, and Hemingway was a prime exponent of the macho lifestyle. His novels drip with it.

I am not convinced that macho is the future. It i seems more t me to be  a bit forced and exaggerated pose. And so, I have been critical of Hemingway.

At the same time, I should recognize one other thing about Hemingway the man, and Hemingway the artist. He took great pleasure in just being someone. He created his identity, and he reveled  in it.

That was something that used to be reserved for aristocrats. Hemingway was no aristocrat. And he was a bit of a shit as a person. But he reveled in who he was. And that is something that in my humble view, should be carried forward into the 21st century.

Here is his life story condensed into a few bylines and pictures. Enjoy!

A Writer’s Life: Self-Publishing?

I have had more than a few conversations over the last months about how difficult it is for new writers to get published.

It is hard enough to write a book! It is the nightmare at the end of the battle royal when you can’t do anything with the finished product!

I have been hearing that hybrid publishers can open the door — but that authors are expected to pony up for lots of the up front costs.

So I am exploring the lay of the land for other ways to find connections to readers and get  published.

With that intro, I bumped into Joanna Penn’s platform. She offers her expertise in publishing to help authors. Today i am listening to her podcast.

Check out it!

A Writer’s Life – Making Characters Memorable

When you read a great novel, everything seems to flow so easily. It is like magic.

But just how do authors make their characters interesting? Not just authentic (fitting into the space in the story) but memorable. People who capture our imaginations.

It helps when the character is caught up in something amazing. So Bilbo in the Shire may not  hold our interest as firmly as Bilbo playing word game with Smaug the dragon.

Bilbo Smaug - Walyou

But there is something more going on there. And that is the how well the attitude of the character is transmitted in what he or she says and does.

You get that from Hemingway in the first chapter in The Sun Also Rises, where we  feel how Jake Barnes  tries to balance a bon vivant attitude with inner stoicism over his nasty war injury. The tension of the story grows as it gets harder for Jake to keep that balance.

The Sun Also Rises | Hemingway Happenings

At the end of the day, it is the attitude that creates the dialog. And to deliver that, the author needs to place himself in the context the character experiences, and hear the characters speak.

So Hemingway needs to be with Jake in his imagination. Tolkien needed to be in the Dragon’s liar with Bilbo.  Nice trick!

The Writer’s Life: Creating Beliefs

Writers are different than the rest of us in one peculiar way. They regularly leave our shared reality and go “elsewhere” looking for stories. We don’t do that. Or if we do, we consider the activity as daydreaming. A waste of time.

Writers have to do this for a simple reason. They are not writing about reality as we experience it. That would be boring. They are writing about other places, where beliefs are intensified. And it is those intensified beliefs that make for dramatic tension which make stories come alive. They are like gold for the writer’s creative imagination.

The funny thing is that in the real world (our common world), we still don’t understand how the brain forms and retains beliefs. We just know that  our beliefs both empower us to act, and imprison us by creating limits in our perceptions of what is possible. Beliefs have that power because we think they are “true” even when they are obviously not true — just our best guess about reality.

And when we are not sure about what will happen next? Yup. Then we are engaged in an unfolding story. And writers work like the devil to make that happen in their plot structuring.  But the key thing to remember – beliefs come first, then challenges to those beliefs.

So where do these beliefs come from? That is part of the great mystery of creating art. It starts with building an understanding of the strongest beliefs held by the audience. Because the audience can only connect to characters that they can relate to in some way. They need to see their beliefs reflected in new ways through  the characters that they connect with.