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At the Beginning

At the Beginning

Where better to begin than at the end?

Maybe it seems like cheating, to know the end at the beginning. That would be the case if we were like King of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, who said to the White Rabbit, “Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

I have in mind, however, an ending more in line with one of Stephen Covey’s habits — Habit #2, in fact, “Begin with the end in mind.” As Covey writes, all things are created twice: first in the mind, and then in the world. It is a little outside his meaning, but: I am at the end of one thing, although that thing turns out to be the beginning of something else.

You see, I’ve finished my novel. The thing about finishing a novel, however, is that it’s less a thing than a state of mind. I don’t meant that the novel itself is unreal. In fact, it exists both on my various computers and as a stack of more than 200 letter-size sheets of bright white paper. Especially in the paper form, the novel looks rather finished, at least in the sense of being neatly printed and with few spelling errors. It would be, in other words, complete if I had for some reason written this novel for a high school assignment.

However, in the world outside of something like high school — what in high school we referred to as “the real world,” a description that is not nearly so concrete as it seemed at the time — this is what I’ve finished my novel means in reality:

I have finished a sh—y first draft of my novel.

Or, perhaps:

I have flogged the stumbling ruins of my novel across the finish line, gasping and spent.

My novel is far from finished, in other words. And yet here I am, at a milestone.

And where better to begin than at a milestone?


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The “Yes” Session

The “Yes” Session

The one thing we know for certain about creativity is that it’s fragile. Since we don’t know where it comes from—and don’t know where or why it goes—we’d be well advised to treat it well when it’s here.

At the inaugural meeting of a new writers’ group on Saturday, exactly how to help each other was the question of the hour. Writing is intensely solitary, taking place almost entirely within the skull of one person. How can we help each other without being negative? Critics like to talk about “constructive criticism”—does such an animal exist?

The answer is: Yes. The process is both simple and powerful. (more…)


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It was a dark and stormy … month

It was a dark and stormy … month

The slogan: “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!”

November is coming, and the ever-shorter days mean that it’s time again for National Novel Writing Month – or “NaNoWriMo.” It’s a mostly- (but not entirely-)online assemblage of writers and non-writers and wanna-be-writers, who join a collective national effort to write, in the space of one November, a novel of 50,000 words.

Does it need to be a classic? Does it need to be good? Does it need to have any actual readers?

(more…)


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Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing

Elmore Leonard started out writing westerns, then turned his talents to crime fiction. One of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, he’s written about two dozen novels, most of them bestsellers, such as Glitz, Get Shorty, Maximum Bob, and Rum Punch. Unlike most genre writers, however, Leonard is taken seriously by the literary crowd.

What’s Leonard’s secret to being both popular and respectable? Perhaps you’ll find some clues in his 10 tricks for good writing:

(more…)


At the Beginning

Where better to begin than at the end? Maybe it seems like cheating, to know the end at...
article post

The “Yes” Session

The one thing we know for certain about creativity is that it’s fragile. Since we don’t...
article post

It was a dark and stormy … month

The slogan: “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!” November is coming, and the...
article post

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing

Elmore Leonard started out writing westerns, then turned his talents to crime fiction....
article post