Opening lines are critical. Ideally, they grab the reader and entice them to read more. They can establish the theme of the book, something important about the main character, or both. “If you ask me where I’m from, I’ll lie to you,” achieves all these objectives. What do you glean from this opening line? Does it make you want to read more? Tell me some of your favorite opening lines.
LGBTQ+ coming out stories are important, especially for readers still in the closet or dealing with trauma from leaving the closet. They’re also important for readers to develop empathy for family members or friends in the process of coming out. And the best coming out stories tap into the deepest parts of all of us. Identity. Belonging. Love. As Lauren Hough notes, there’s more than one kind of coming out.
Not just nachos but nachos from 7-11 - not just chili, but Alpo-looking chili. These are known as...
For as long as I can remember, I’ve spent the 4th of July on the beach, mostly in Montauk, NY.
For those of you unfamiliar with Montauk, it’s the easternmost tip of Long Island,120 miles east of New York City. Originally a fishing village, it used to be known as a popular summer spot for middle-class families, especially compared to the glitzier Hamptons villages to its west.
That’s the laid-back Montauk I remember fondly. The place where I square-danced with my parents and sister at the Hither Hills State Park campground. Where I learned to drive our silver Buick station wagon. Where I called out orders for steamers and lobsters at the dockside clam bar. Where I wept over a break-up with my first love. Where I raised two sons. Where I committed to my writing life. Where I wrote words that turned my life—and my family’s life—upside down.
That streak of 4th of July’s in Montauk ended in 2017 when I left my old life...
Ironically with everything going online during the pandemic, many of us are now blessed with more writing community than ever before. Thank you Zoom! Online classes, online writing groups, online writing conferences, online co-writing dates—all good stuff and much of which I suspect will be available to writers permanently.
And still, there’s nothing quite like being with other writers in the flesh. The monthly writing group I attend is now meeting in-person outside. Hooray!
What type of online writing community worked for you? What didn’t? What in-person writing community are you most looking to resuming?
Having skin in the game helps keep me accountable. If I pay money for something, I’m more likely to follow through. If it’s a “free masterclass,” I’m likely to blow it off if something better comes across my desk. Maybe this is just because I’m “frugal” or as some say, “cheap.” Maybe it’s just...
Have you ever had one of those "Road to Damascus" moments when the scales fell from your eyes and you saw everything with new eyes?
I've had a few of them.
In the mid '80s when Duncan Kennedy, my property law professor at Harvard Law School, introduced "Critical Legal Studies," the then-controversial theory that the law wasn't "objective," that the rules were created by and for those in power.
After the May 2020 George Floyd murder when I began reading books like Waking Up White, White Fragility, and How to Be an Antiracist, which opened my eyes to how white supremacy is baked into pretty much everything in American society, a fact I hadn't fully understood before.
And, this past year when I read Craft in the Real World and began to understand that the "rules of writing" are nothing more than a set of expectations that a certain audience or reader has. The craft rules we've been taught to believe are "correct" or absolute—such as "show, don't tell," "make your protagonist...
We write because writing makes us feel alive.
We write because we have no other choice.
But sometimes writing is the last thing we want to do.
Don’t beat yourself up if you feel that way.
Sometimes we need a specific reason to put our butt in the chair and do the work.
Like finding out a publisher is accepting unagented memoir manuscripts for exactly 2 days this fall.
Yeah, that got my attention. It was exactly the push I needed to ramp up my revision from la-di-dah to full speed ahead. What’s motivating you to get your work done?
Writing a book is hard.
There will be many moments when you feel like you’re fumbling in the dark.
What’s my story really about? When does it start? When does it end? How should I structure it?
Who will read it? Will anyone really care?
But if you keep at it, a magic moment will happen—I promise!
You will see the light. You will understand what your story is really about. You will know how to structure your...
Tiny Love Stories: True Tales of Love in 100 Words or Less, edited by Daniel Jones and Miya Lee of Modern Love in The New York Times
We pick up books for many reasons: to be entertained, to forget our sorrows, to laugh, to learn something. Before you even read the first story in tiny love stories, you know what to expect. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be swept away—in less time than it takes to read this paragraph. This book of bite-sized morsels of goodness may be exactly what you need after (during?) pandemic life.
This tiny love story, “My Main Men as Meals,” made me LOL. It made me wonder how I’d describe my past lovers. And “my now and hopefully forever” person. All that in under 100 words. What does this story evoke for you?
This tiny love story, “He Tried So Hard to Remember Me,” gutted me, in a good way :) It brought back memories of my own dad who couldn’t remember what he had just finished...
My new book coaching clients are on fire right now! They have a story or a big idea they are burning to share with the world. We're digging in together to further focus their idea so they can write forward with purpose.
But inevitably there will come a time (or two) when doubt will creep in. When writing feels like a slog. When they will start comparing themselves to more established writers.
When they wonder if it's all worth it. When they wonder if they have anything new to share with the world. When they wonder if anyone will even care.
I get it. I've been there.
Those kinds of doubts creep in when I'm in the messy middle of a draft ... or in the middle of a revision.
Truth be told, those doubts have crept in recently for me.
But instead of getting a book deal, I'm back in the middle of a major revision. I'm tearing my draft apart to write a better book.
And it will be...
Tools of the Trade:
Dropbox or Google Drive? Or some other organizational system?
What matters most is you have a cloud-based system to contain and organize your writing. Otherwise you risk wasting hours of precious time hunting down drafts and bits and pieces of writing. Set up a folder and subfolder system with categories that make sense to you.
Factors to consider:
What’s your favorite...
Avoiding Comparison: The Struggle is Real
When you’re a writer, it’s hard to avoid comparing yourself to other writers.
You know, the ones who have agents. Book deals. Thousands of Twitter followers. Reviews in The New Yorker.
Meanwhile, you’re toiling in anonymity, just trying to get your draft done.
The struggle is real and so are your feelings.
Acknowledge the envy and don’t beat yourself up for feeling that way. We’ve all been there.
Then get back to the page and get that draft done.
Who knows? Maybe someday you’ll be the one with the agent and the book deal. You’ll never know until you do the work.
Need A Pat on the Back?
Writing is largely a solitary pursuit without a lot of validation or “attaboys” or “attagirls.” For writers who thrive on praise (anyone else here whose “love language” is “words of...
Memoir writers need to uphold their bargain with the reader to be trustworthy, to tell the truth as they remember it. See how deftly Ouellette does that here. She states a fact but says she doesn’t remember it happening. Only her sister does. With that one simple statement, we know we can trust this narrator. She’s not going to lie to us.
Memoir writers need to choose their perspective. Who is narrating this story? The adult author looking back on her life? The child as she is experiencing events? Jeannine Ouellette does both in this fragmented memoir, which can be tricky but she’s got the writing chops to do it. Can’t you just hear the young Jeannine here?
There’s a principle in writing known as Chekhov’s gun. “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” Everything you include in your...