Great Stuff for Writers, March 23-25, 2013

Just a light reading list for you today but of course every one’s got value: the keys to writing in general and short stories and screenplays in particular, the role of the reader, and how to work well with a graphic artist. It’s all Great Stuff. Enjoy!


If you’ve ever wondered How to Write a Short Story (and who hasn’t, if you’ve tried?), James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) piece on The Kill Zone is an excellent discussion of what makes a short story different from a longer work, besides length (duh!). The answer his “boys in the basement” came up with after a friend asked Bell the question, is that “a short story is about one shattering moment,” which can be internal (emotional, psychological) or external. So can’t a novel also have a shattering moment? Of course. Probably several. And therein lies the real difference, I think. Each turning point in a novel shatters the protagonist’s previous life. In a short story, there’s just one, and it’s the focus of the story.

The French literary critic Roland Barth wrote back in the 1930s that “every book is two books: the one the writer writes and the one the reader reads.” Katie Weiland (@KMWeiland) picks up on that theme in Why the Reader Is Your Co-Writer. She quotes Steve Almond, who calls readers “willing accomplices to your lies”—they want to believe your story. Your job, then, is to let them do their creative part by trusting them to be able to do it and giving them only as much of the story as they need to do so.

Ever dream of seeing your novel, or even short story, on the silver screen? Sure, who hasn’t? But how do you get from a manuscript or published work to a movie? It starts with writing a screenplay and that’s where Chuck Sambuchino’s (@ChuckSambuchino) How to Write a Screenplay: 7 Starting Tips for Adapting Your Own Novel on Writer Unboxed comes in. Chuck emphasizes that the word “starting” is key here. Yes, the tips are all important, but they’re the beginning of the process, not the whole thing. And some of them, like going to “pitch fests” in Los Angeles or entering your script in a script contest, aren’t cheap. Still, this is a place to start.

Here’s one of those ideas that’s so obvious that after coming across it you wonder why you didn’t think of it before. Boyd Morrison (@boydmorrison) is spending some time in Hollywood and while he’s there, he’s taking a basic improvisational comedy course. The key to improve, Morrison writes, is always saying Yes, and… to your on-stage partner. Whatever idea they come up with, or are given, you have to accept and expand on. The key word isn’t “yes,” but “and,” however. And isn’t that like creative writing? You start with an idea (“what if…?”) and expand on it. By saying “yes, and…” you force yourself to silence or ignore the inner critic; it frees the comic, and it could free you.


Writer Unboxed “advertising guru” Jeanne Kisacky starts a two-part series of Tips for Writers on How to Work Smoothly with a Graphic Artist. Need a cover design or some advertising material? This series is going to be for you. Jeanne’s first post deals with three topics: knowing what you want (and how to figure that out!), finding the right graphic artist, and understanding the basic design process. This is a long but very informative post. Well worth marking as a keeper if you’re approaching this need.

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