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Posts Tagged ‘Writing Critique’

TWS

September 7th 2021

First word

For me, where genre ends and literature begins doesn’t matter. What matters is whether a given novel hits me with high impact. If it does, it probably is fulfilling the purpose of fiction. It has drawn me into a story world, held me captive, taken me on a journey with characters like none I’ve ever met, revealed truths I’ve somehow always known and insights that rock my brain. It’s filled me with awe, which is to say it’s made me see the familiar in a wholly new way and made the unfamiliar a foundational part of me. It both entertains and matters. It both captures our age and becomes timelessly great. It does all that with the sturdy tools of story and the flair of narrative art.”
― Donald Maass, Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling

Here’s who presented Tuesday evening

Jaime Nelson Noven (part 2, New York, After All) – Jaime (New York, After All chapter) This week, we talked about New York as a character, conveying Charlie’s affection for the baby in a way that’s less detached than the rest of the narrative, leaning in to the imagined future history of New York, and the logistics of having a baby without warning (Is the baby early? Did Charlie miss the signals?). Great recommendations surrounding incorporating the river into the Ohio-Kentucky civil war and using bus ads to add to the metaphor. Thanks, everyone!

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Tuesdays With Story

August 3, 2021

The first word:

When I sit down in order to write, sometimes it’s there; sometimes it’s not. But that doesn’t bother me anymore. I tell my students there is such a thing as “writers block,” and they should respect it. You shouldn’t write through it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven’t got it right now.

– Toni Morrison

Here’s who presented Tuesday evening:

Jaime Nelson Noven (Part 1, New York, After All)… Jamie presented a chapter from a novel in progress (a book within a book). It seemed most everyone liked the voice of the narrator and the humor. We looked at some troublesome scene transitions and the narrator’s casual reaction to a coworker going missing. Definitely will have to change the supermarket simile. Thanks, all!

Bob Kralapp (short story, “Don’t Take It Personally”)… The story was well received. Jack felt that having the basketball coach bet two grand on the upcoming game was excessive and that two hundred was more in line with the situation. Jamie was confused about having the story end where it did without resolving whether Coach was betting for or against his team. Most readers felt the story was incomplete and needed a second act to bring it around.

Amber Boudreau (chapters 24-26, The Dragoneer 2)… Amber read from chapter 24 of her sequel to The Dragoneer. Jerry had a question about the characters sitting around digesting. Jamie needed a little more information in one part concerning a character’s luck. John thought the description of Moira’s drowning was well done. As far as  chapter 26 goes, it may need some retooling or could be left as is to let the audience take from it what they will. In this chapter, Moira has a conversation with her father who’s dead but only because the Librarian is there as well and that may need to be made clearer.

John Schneller (chapter 4, Precious Daughter)… Kotel’s more light-hearted days will be a contrast to Nia’s troubles. The two stories will need to be interspersed earlier. Jack noticed the hints that Kotel was ascending into a new realm as he ascended the mountain. Hints of the change need to be delayed for a scene to coincide with his entry into the hidden village. The skunk scene was overworked. Jamie pointed out that Kotel’s half-truths will not be obvious to a new reader who has not read the first book. Thanks for all the helpful comments.

Jerry Peterson (chapters 22-24, Night Flight)… Jerry used the wrong church to integrate. The Baptists would not have permitted a black person in their church at this time (1927, the heart of the Jim Crow era). The Methodists might, several said. Jack found the shovel cake incident disconcerting. Rachel and Abraham Isaac work hard at doing everything properly, so they wouldn’t make shovel cake in the fireplace. That’s primitive. Rooster would, though. He can teach Rachel how this is done. Kashmira suggested Rachel has to have things to do that continually puts Rooster off from asking her to marry him.

Here’s who’s up on August 17

Amit Trivedi (chapter12, River Drops – working title)

Paul Wagner (Night of the Red Eyed Mad Man)

Kashmira Sheth (untitled)

Larry Sommers (short story, An Episode)

Jerry Peterson (chapter 25, Night Flight)

And riding back-up, John Schneller (chapter 5, Precious Daughter).

Our editor

Bob Kralapp returns to edit the August issues for Writer’s Mail. You have something you’d like him to include in our next issue? Email it to Bob.

Fifth Tuesday

It’s coming, the end of the month, August 31. Jack will host the group at his farm.

We do have a writing challenge. Here it is: Create a 30-second radio or television commercial for your new invention. Yes, we need a script.

Ron Popeil was a master of this. He invented or acquired and starred in his own commercials for the first Karaoke machine called Mr. Microphone, the Popeil Pocket Fisherman, the Veg-o-Matic, the Buttoneer, the Smokeless Ashtray, Popeil’s Electric Food Dehydrator, the Inside-the-Egg Scrambler, GLH-9 (Great Looking Hair Formula #9) Hair in a Can Spray, Rhinestone stud setter (later called the Bedazzler), and the Cap Snaffler. Look up his commercials on You Tube for inspiration.

A book for writers

New York Times reviewer Pat O’Connor said of comma queen Mary Norris’s memoir that it was a great read. “Hilarious…This book charmed my socks off.”

So why should we read it?

Norris has spent more than three decades in The New Yorker’s copy department where her job was to make sure every column and story maintained the magazine’s high standards for punctuation, spelling, grammar, structure, and the craft of writing.

Says the blurb, “In Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, she brings her vast experience with grammar and usage, her good cheer and irreverence, and her finely sharpened pencils to help the rest of us in a boisterous language book as full of life as it is of practical advice.”

So check it out.

Confessions came out in 2016. NPR, Amazon, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal all named it a Best Book of the Year.

There’s more. Three years later. Norris brought out It’s Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen.

Says the blurb for this book, “Greek to Me is a charming account of Norris’s lifelong love affair with words and her solo adventures in the land of olive trees and ouzo. Along the way, Norris explains how the alphabet originated in Greece, makes the case for Athena as a feminist icon, goes searching for the fabled Baths of Aphrodite, and reveals the surprising ways Greek helped form English. Filled with Norris’s memorable encounters with Greek words, Greek gods, Greek wine―and more than a few Greek men―Greek to Me is the Comma Queen’s fresh take on Greece and the exotic yet strangely familiar language that so deeply influences our own.”

The last word:

Stories are for those late hours of the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember but the story. – Tim O’Brien, from The Things They Carried

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Tuesdays with Story

June 1, 2021

The first word…

“I have written somewhere that there is only one story, but there are many stories in the one, and I like that idea.”

– N. Scott Momaday

Tuesday evening at Jack Frieburger’s place…

Eight writers attended, including Jerry and Kashmira via Zoom link. Five writers presented work. Jamie’s brother, visiting from the Washington D.C. area, sat in on the group.

Jaime Nelson Noven

Outsleep, Ch. 14 part 1

This week, we looked at the disorienting effect of telling a story out of its chronology, the shifting of the tone, and sugar highs. I will be looking at characterizing the security guard more as being small in stature, as I now see that him being wrestled by the doctor is a weird image if it’s assumed he’s intimidating in size. Thanks, all. It was so nice to see so many of you in person.

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Tuesdays with Story

May 18, 2021

The first word…

“Begin to think of settings as characters in your story. A character plays against other characters, increasing tension, creating drama, and advancing the plot. A story about a man in a hurricane is about two characters. A story about a stepfather and a boy and a toy store is about three characters.”—Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction.

Tuesday evening on Zoom

Seven writers attended, four writers presented work, three writers, myself included, were occupied with hosting guests, which is a thing again.

Jaime Nelson Noven

Outsleep, Ch. 13 & Ch. 2 insert

We talked mostly about setting the scene in the outsleep unit by moving some of the description earlier, looking at what the objective description’s tone should be, and amping up the contrast between the plastic nature of the room and the freshly cut flowers. There was also a good suggestion of the patients (or their locations) having numbers in such a vast space. Thanks, all!

Jaime

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Tuesdays with Story
December 4, 2020

The first word . . .

“It is wise to write on many subjects, to try many themes, that so you may find the right and inspiring one.” —Henry David Thoreau (Journal, 4 September 1851)

December already . . .

Nine TWS writers gathered Tuesday evening—yes, December 1—around their screens and worked through the chapters of five of their colleagues. Here is some of what was said:

— Kashmira Sheth (chapters 21-22, Journey to Swaraj). . . Kashmira submitted two chapters of her novel, Journey to Swaraj. The discussion centered around how much and what to include in Veena’s time with Lalubhai, Tarben and their friends. There was also discussion about how to weave some of Veena’s thoughts in dialogues with one of her family members or friends. Many liked the language and also where and how the story was proceeding. 

— Jaime Nelson Noven (chapter 4 pt 2, Outsleep). . . We discussed the audience’s reaction to Rice’s comedy-routine-turned-motivational-speech. More thought will go into how this particular society would feel hearing her words and how they would visually react to her set. We looked at a couple ways to rewrite the description of the bottles on the ledge in the green room. Larry expects to see repercussions for Rice’s speech. Thanks, everyone!

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