• Creative Writing,  Finding your voice,  practical advice,  teaching creativity,  teaching writing,  tips and tricks,  writing technique

    Writing in 3D

    We’ve all heard it before. “Your character’s flat. You need to make him three-dimensional.” Sure, great. But what exactly does that mean? We all know we live in a three dimensional world. We learn it in grade school: a line, a plane, a cube… But how do you make a character three dimensional? Do you make him really fat? Do you give him a limp so he wobbles when he walks, thereby taking up more space? Believe it or not, I’ve tried both, and no, that’s not what it means. Three-dimensional means you have to dig deeper. Take that character with the limp, for example. It’s fine to describe him…

  • connecting,  Creative Writing,  critique,  editing,  Mentors,  revision,  Writers Groups

    Deconstructing the Reconstruction

    Taking criticism is never easy, no matter how expert, apropos, or kind. We can feel our bodies seizing up, our hearts palpitating, our minds starting to whirl with refusals, excuses, explanations, denials. Of course, my original is perfect! They just don’t understand! But if we chose our readers wisely, usually we find they’re right. Maybe the solution isn’t exactly as they suggest, but there’s a kernel of truth in their issues and insights that we would all be wise to examine. I confronted this working on my latest revisions. My good friend Marina had given my manuscript a thorough, thoughtful once-over and we’d spent hours discussing her comments and suggestions.…

  • Creative Writing,  critique,  editing,  revision

    A House A-Crumble

    I had a dream last night that my house was crumbling. The front stairway, made of concrete, was so precarious it broke beneath my feet as I tried to mount. The porch displayed its gray, rotted wood in the cloud-light, and the front door was hanging on its hinges. Into this wreck, I entered optimistically, skipping when the stairs collapsed, my hammer hanging from my work-pants like a decoration. I felt certain that everything around me could be spruced up to perfection. I already had a plan to center the stairs (they were dangling far off to the right) and to tear off the front railings so the porch would…

  • Creative Writing,  discipline,  historical fiction

    Guest Blogger: Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: a novel of Claude Monet

    As many of you know, historical novelist Stephanie Cowell and I go way back. We met in a workshop taught by Madeleine L’Engle more than twenty years ago and worked together in a writers group in NYC for over ten years. She’s the “Stephanie” I mention in my usual first class essay – the Stephanie of whom we were all a little bit green when she published her first novel Nicholas Cooke back in 1993. We’ve shared a lot – hopes, frustrations, disappointments, more than a bucket of tears apiece, and finally the joy of seeing her previous novel, Marrying Mozart and my first not only published, but represented by…

  • Creative Writing,  Great Writers,  Uncategorized

    101 Ways to Write a Novel

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it forever, there’s no right way to write a book. I had it comfirmed for me many years ago with my oft’ repeated story of my dear friend Stephanie Cowell (whose new novel, Claude and Camille about Claude Monet, is coming out in April 2010). Years ago before either of us was published, I sat amazed listening to her tell how she put together her first novel by laying all the scenes on her bed and putting them in order! I could never, ever do anything like that. I’m a chronological writer. I start at the beginning and I write to the end.…