Archive for the 'Inspirations' Category

Why You Don’t Need to Rush Your Writing

The truth can be told at last: I am the world’s worst dilettante.

In my life I have learned to rock-climb, ski, speak French (all badly). I was deputy press secretary for New York State in Dukakis’ bid for the presidency in 1988, a job I got through volunteering in hopes of meeting a nice single guy.  I worked at The New York Times back when the presses were still in the basement of the building on 43rd Street, was fired [...]

Wanted: Grim Reaper As Writing Coach

The Grim Reaper by Trish Steel [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Last month, through pure serendipity, I stumbled across an intellectual exercise which I’d like to recommend to all my fellow writers.  I believe it will be of particular benefit to those of you who  a) are overwhelmed with life and yearn for a reset button b) wish to clear away the cobwebs of smugness and complacency, or c) like me, write genre fiction that others might call “quiet” or, in [...]

On Rejection and Renewal: A Note to Aspiring Novelists

Photo by Scott White

Our guest today is Warren Adler, best known for The War of the Roses, his masterpiece fictionalization of a macabre divorce turned into the Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated dark comedy hit starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito. Adler’s international hit stage adaptation of the novel will premiere on Broadway in 2015-2016 (to be produced by Jay and Cindy Gutterman). Adler has also optioned and sold film rights for a number of his works [...]

The Surprising Importance of Doing Nothing

Photo by Alice Popkorn (Flickr)

Pop quiz! Studies have shown that creative people are known to:

A) Daydream. A lot.
B) They lose track of time.
C) Have wandering minds.
D) Stare at the wall. A lot.
E) All of the above

If you picked E, you are correct! Successful creatives spend much of their time so deeply immersed in their own internal worlds that, in the eyes of the world, it often appears that they’re doing nothing.

But of course, we know how very untrue that [...]

What It Really Takes

The other day, I was doing a quick skim of the September/October Poets and Writers, the subscription I never have time to truly savor because I am too busy (as most of us are) with the more insistent facets of my life: family, part-time teaching job, part-time curriculum writing job, part-time fiction writing job, full-time adventures with my mental health challenges, always-dirty toilets and dishes and clothes, kids’ carpools and music lessons.

But one article caught my eye, partly because it was short and partly [...]

On the Quilting of One-Liners (and the Second Coming of Once-Dead Darlings)

photo (adapted) by jude hill

There are wire bins in my office, marked with the titles of different projects. One bin, however, is just labeled “Ideas.” Sometimes I throw plot lines in that bin. Sometimes I’ll write the title of a possible future novel — with nothing else because I don’t know anything else but the title.

Mostly, however, I toss in one-liners. I don’t put these one-liners in a word document because I like the physical reminder — they sit [...]

Feel Good and Fail Big

Last time we talked about the writing process from a tyro’s point of view. Let’s continue with that train of thought, and see if we can continue to build a coherent (and at least cautiously optimistic) view of the writer’s life.

Writing has been described as a battlefield, and the metaphor may be apt, but this battlefield is fluid; you never know where you’re going to make your breakthroughs. In fact, given that creativity often involves taking yourself by surprise, you [...]

When Life Hands You Lemons

photo by Mark Roy

Please welcome Kathleen McCleary to Writer Unboxed as a new regular columnist! Kathleen is the author of three novels—House and Home, A Simple Thing, and Leaving Haven—and has worked as a bookseller, bartender, and barista (all great jobs for gathering material for fiction). You can learn more about Kathleen in her bio box at the end of this post.

Three years ago, I had one of those summers in which everything that could go wrong did—and on a [...]


Flickr Creative Commons: RA.AZ

This delightful word was originally coined in the fifties to describe deliberately confusing bureaucratic jargon.  Since then, science fiction writers have co-opted the term for the scientific background you feed your readers to explain the ways in which your world differs from reality.  It’s the bafflegab that persuades your readers to suspend disbelief.

It’s most often used in science fiction, of course, but other genres use bafflegab as well.  Fantasy novels require a magic that behaves according [...]

If Buddha Wrote a Novel

By Jenny Downing on Flickr’s Creative Commons

Today’s guest is Renee Swindle, the author of newly released A Pinch Of Ooh La La and Shake Down The Stars (NAL/Penguin). Her first novel, Please Please Please, was an Essence Magazine bestseller. Renee has an MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University. An admitted tea snob, Renee lives in Oakland with three rescue dogs and three cats—“Yep, six animals and me,” says Renee.

Dish magazine says, “Swindle has a way of making [...]

Rumination Frustration

I find myself in the writing phase I call Rumination. Julia Monroe Martin’s great post on this topic reminds me that some writers take and find pleasure in this phase. There are times I do, too, when I love the Rumination phase because everything—every character, every plot—is possible. The world feels like my oyster!

But after six months stuck in Rumination, the world just feels like my goiter.

I want to be in the phase called Putting Story on Paper. Or, Now We’re Cookin’. How about Actual [...]

Better than They Know Themselves

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

~ Henry David Thoreau (Walden)


Most readers and writers agree: the most memorable part of a story is usually not the plot, but the characters. It follows that as writers, we need to know our characters very well. And if we do our jobs, by the end of the book the reader will know our characters very well, too.

But something I haven’t [...]