Burt Helm and Max Chafkin studied award-winning articles and found that the following qualities prevail among them:
1. Write no less than 6500 words. 2. Ditch the present tense. It is finally, mercifully, out of fashion. 3. In general, avoid anecdotal ledes, nut grafs, kicker quotes and foul language.
It may also be heartening to know that the word “cocksucker” has never appeared in any story that has either won or been nominated for a feature writing prize.
Ah, almost forgot.
4. Be male. Read the rest
The Jerx is an anonymous, iconoclastic blog written by a heterodox magician who holds his fellow magicians in disdain for their terrible storytelling skills. Read the rest
With New Year's Resolution season on the doorstep, it's time for end-of-year articles about self-improvement, and despite the cliche and improbability of that species of endeavor, I'm recommending that everyone read "Secrets to Long Haul Creativity." Read the rest
25 years into creating my comic strip “Tom the Dancing Bug,” I’ve just embarked on another venture: writing books for kids. My series of books, The EMU Club Adventures, began in April with Alien Invasion in My Backyard, and the second installment, Ghostly Thief of Time, was released last month.
Now, “Tom the Dancing Bug” is certainly not for kids, but writing for kids was something I’ve always wanted to do. I love kids’ literature and culture, and I love kids; if I’m at a gathering of friends and family, you’ll probably find me laughing it up with the kids.
But as I started this new task, I was kind of worried about whether I could write for an audience that wasn’t me. My comic strip is pretty much what I would want to read – would consciously writing for another audience render the work stilted, off-target, or even pandering?
I once saw Maurice Sendak, one of the very greatest children’s authors ever, tell Stephen Colbert in an interview, “I don’t write for children. I write – and somebody says, ‘That’s for children!’”
Well, I’ve spent a lot of years showing myself what I write, and it’s usually satirical or absurdist takes on things like income inequality, religion, and the new economy. None of which a kid with any good sense would have any interest in.
As I began my project, I happened to go to a panel discussion of children’s authors at the New York Public Library, because some of my kids’ favorite authors were participating. Read the rest
User experience design is a holistic field that touches on every aspect of the experience the user has with your product, all the way down to opening the box. As a book editor, I've found it useful to apply the principles of UX to crafting books that grab and hold a reader's attention.
Reader experience design (or ReadX) is about building a book beginning with the experience you want the reader to have and working backward from there.
Obviously, crafting the reader's experience is something we writers, editors, and publishers have struggled with since the heady days of the Egyptian papyrus industry, a time with remarkable similarities to our own (the primary difference, in fact, was that using your "mouse" to "scroll" down when reading an article wouldn't have been any fun for you or for the mouse). Problem is, we often prioritize other goals above the reader's experience, like proving another expert wrong or impressing our peers.
In my experience, people who write books to share their domain knowledge with others usually suck at ReadX. It’s next to impossible to un-know something, to think like someone who knows less about your subject than you do (or simply sees it differently). You must constantly remind yourself that your reader is both smarter and less knowledgeable than you assume. (The smarter bit is important. You don't talk down to your reader. You just explain your topic like you would to an intelligent friend in a totally different line of work.)
To get this right, this means going to the other side of the table and putting yourself in the mind of your reader over and over again, to make sure you've dropped your assumptions and that you're actually getting through. Read the rest
Morrissey is this year's winner of the Bad Sex in Writing award.
The famously unpleasant singer-songwriter, whose autobiography was published by Penguin Classics in an act of enragingly ironic-self regard, clinched the title with a passage from his debut novel, 'List of the Lost.'
The judges were swayed by an ecstatic scene involving Ezra, one of the athletes, and his plucky girlfriend, Eliza: ‘At this, Eliza and Ezra rolled together into the one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.
The Literary Review, which has organized the contest each year since 1993 to reward "poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description", said that Morrissey's victory shows the "rude health" of unwell prose.
Morrissey now joins a "literary pantheon" alongside Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and John Updike, writes Rolling Stone.
Read the rest
Morrissey was unfortunately unable to accept his award in person as he's on the road in support of his 2014 album, World Peace Is None of Your Business.
Literary Review has handed out the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award since 1993 in an effort to "draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them." Pornographic and expressly erotic literature are not considered for the prize.
A classic Mallory Ortberg humor column sets out a day in the life of an "empowered female heroine," a fictional staple on whom society (and literature) project a huge amount of aspirational demands. Read the rest
Wole Talabi, a Nigerian sf writer who lives in Malaysia, has rounded up his ten favorite African science fiction and fantasy stories of 2015. Like Africa, the stories are wildly varied, each as different from the other as they are from the sf you're likely to read coming out of Europe and North America. Read the rest
You know that successful person's lament about being out of control of their own time, not being able to balance the demands that others placed on them against their own self-care needs? There is nothing new under the sun: "Had I been able to abstain more from public business, and to live more in solitude, I should have been happier, and should have accomplished much more as a poet." Read the rest
Rebecca Solnit is a brilliant writer whose essay Men Explain Things to Me sparked the discourse about "mansplaining" and whose 2009 book A Paradise Built in Hell is one of the best history books I've ever read -- so why do so many interviewers want to talk to her about the fact that she chose not to have babies? Read the rest
I blogged the announcement of the Qwerkywriter more than a year ago, when the company was retooling from its successful kickstarter to full retail production. I've had one of the production models in my office for a couple of months now and I've been very impressed! (I wrote this review on it). Read the rest
It's a lovely piece of narrative theory from Wycliff Aber Hill's 1919 book Ten Million Photoplay Plots: The Master Key to All Dramatic Plots, part of a tradition of stage-play manuals that presented related taxonomies for aspiring writers. Read the rest
Lara writes, "Time traveling gamers, levee-breaking mermaids, and frayed sanity on the first manned mission to Europa. It's all packed between the pages of The Orange Volume. The cohesive Clarion class of 2012 is at it again. Last year they released The Red Volume and raised $1,500 for the Clarion Foundation. This year--just in time for Halloween--they're following up with The Orange Volume." Read the rest
Joey from Arizona State University writes, "ASU’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative is holding its first-ever Climate Fiction Short Story Contest. First prize is $1,000, and three more winners will receive book bundles signed by Paolo Bacigalupi, who was our annual Climate Futures lecturer last month. The best submissions will be published in an online anthology, and will also be considered for publication in the journal Issues in Science and Technology. The contest will be judged by Kim Stanley Robinson, along with a panel of experts from the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative." Read the rest