Defeating the Pink Gremlin

At a recent writers’ retreat, we were challenged to identify our “pink gremlins,” meaning those private obstacles to achieving our writing goals. Each person wrote silently for 20 minutes and then shared the results. (If you’ve never tried a timed writing exercise, it can be enlightening. Set the clock and write!) Each individual’s pink gremlin was distinct: fear, wordiness, etc. This was mine: “The trouble with trouble is that it starts out like fun.” Remember this the next time you set aside your manuscript and Continue reading →

Writing in a Nutshell: 9 Story Musts! (an excerpt from my forthcoming how-to, Writing in a Nutshell)

Here are a few of the story “Musts” that I present in my writer’s workshops: One: Action!  Hero in action, ruthlessly pursuing a meaningful goal; antagonists actively standing in the way of the onrushing hero; writer in action, channeling the story, staying out of head and experiencing from the heart; prose in action, show the reader; reader in action, receiving and experiencing the story. Two: Bloody Knuckles! Also known as “skin in the game” or “a dog in this fight.”  To write a story that Continue reading →

Writing 101: The Mountain as Metaphor

Not many of us wake in the morning and think: “I’m going to climb Mt. Everest.” Ascending a twenty-nine-thousand-foot peak requires a skillset hardened by years of dedication and training. The same holds true for writing a book. It’s not done on a whim. You don’t cast a glance at the Toni Morrison novels on your bookshelf and think, “A Nobel Prize in Literature? Sure, I can do that.” Now, this metaphor might be a bit of a stretch, but I was thinking about it while Continue reading →

Awful Inspiration: War on the Page

The first war novel that truly moved me was Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo. It’s a wrenching story, set in World War I, and I read it in my teens. Nonstop. Spellbound and aghast. How did Trumbo write such a powerful novel that it has stuck with me for all these years? Trumbo’s antiwar novel is set in motion by a sound, a ringing phone, a small detail that draws the reader into the story. Instead of launching into exposition, instead of describing the global Continue reading →