Maximilian wrote: "I've read many of your blog posts with great interest and do admire your discipline and passion for the craft. I especially am interested in how you find clients for various writing projects. It's clear to me that people who call themselves writers are as abundant as sand on a beach. It's hard to stand out. This year I really want to earn some coin with my writing, not necessarily with my as-yet unfinished novel, but with helping others find the right words. You mentioned that you've been hired as a ghostwriter before...you have shown time and again that you can weather any storm, or at least you're good at making others believe that. I admire what you've accomplished. I would appreciate some advice, any advice, as to how I can develop a freelancing career with the power of the internet."Read More
There are so many—so many women I've met, so many stories I've heard—and so many warnings I was given, warnings that came down to the same fear, "I don't want my family to know. I don't want my relatives to hear what I think. I don't want my friends to jeer at me, get disappointed in me, point fingers at me. I don't want any trouble." And yet all of them were talking to me, for hours, often stumbling over words, unable to stop. They all wanted to share. They wanted their stories to be heard. And I told them I'll make them heard. I asked if it was okay for me to write their stories down and post them on my blog. Some women happily agreed. Others told me it's okay only if I change their names. Some flat out refused. The stories they told were not always their own—they were stories of their girlfriends, their sisters, mothers, aunts. Stories like the stories Lyudmila Petrushevskaya was writing down, stories forbidden to be published in the Soviet Union because they revealed the ugly truth our government didn't want people to know. These stories still happen today. Stories connected to today's atrocities like the recent law change in Russia that made domestic abuse not a criminal offense but an administrative one. If Putin signs it, it will mean only concussions of broken bones will lead to criminal charges. Think about it for a second. And now think why these women were afraid of me sharing their stories. In light of this I have decided to write all of them anonymously, changing names and genders of their children or friends where I saw appropriate, retaining original stories in such a way that it wouldn't pose danger to the women who shared them with me. If you see anything that reminds you of someone you know, it's because these stories are typical. Which is a tragedy. These stories are our stories, no matter where we live. These women are us, and so the names don't really matter.Read More
The one scary trait we writers have is our observance power. We see things other people don't see. To them those things are minuscule, invisible, to us they're magnified, screaming to be written into a story.
There was a Spanish-speaking family on the plane to Moscow. The father was tall and fierce, a dominating patriarch. He shoved his grown sons around, covertly, only giving them a nudge but with such hidden force they moved instantly. The younger, a teenager, sat next to me. I observed with the cringe of recognition the survival technique he adopted—he was silent and looked as though nothing disturbed him. The father barked at him, a huge cross with Jesus Christ swinging from his chest, and the son didn't even flinch. He just had this passive blank look on his face. I remember those times. It was the survival technique I used. Whatever was done to me didn't bother me in the slightest. That was my power.Read More
I was going to write you a whole whiny post on how I can't sleep, and how writers and sleep are enemies, but my brain decided otherwise. I keep discovering new things every day, it seems, and this particular one helped me today in writing killer sentences. So of course I had to share it with you. Remember the post on having every sentence turn? Well, it's even deeper than that. Turns out, a sentence can turn three ways, and it's up to you which way you want to turn it, and according to the way you turn it, you can either rope your reader into suspense or have them relax. This is scary stuff. Scary powerful, I mean. It teaches you how to manipulate your reader, which of course is what we writers do. But I had no idea about this! And now that I know, I can't write the way I used to anymore. I see it everywhere.
The culprit is Robert McKee's new book Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, and Screen. If you haven't read it, stop reading this post and go get it. Done? Okay. Carrying on.Read More
I thought this was going to be a straightforward post, but the more I read about theme and the more I work at detecting it in the novels I read, the more I see that it's an elusive truth that is multilayered and can mean many things to many people, and even to the author it's a truth that can be appear as a singular vision, or can change and fluctuate and focus and dissolve and continue forming as the book is written. As such it is a feeling, an understanding of the world in a particular way that stems from one emotion and grows into a statement which rings true for the book. It can start with one word, the idea I have played around with in this post. For TUBE it's fear. Everything centers around fear. And there are layers on top of that fear that manifest in multiple ways, the main three of which are plot, structure and character (this I have picked up from Theme & Strategy by Ronald B. Tobias), but the emotion remains the same. I'll peel it apart for you so you can see the layers.
1. PLOT: Face your fear to overcome it.Read More