Thursday, 20 November 2014

Why I like The Paris Review

Image from The Paris Review
The Paris Review is a literary magazine founded in Paris by Harold L. Humes, Peter Mathiessen and George Plimpton in 1953. The magazine began with a simple editorial mission - to emphasise creative work - fiction and poetry - so long as they are good.

What I particularly like about The Paris Review is their Reviews Writers at Work interview series which offers authors a rare opportunity to discuss their life and art at length; 'they have responded with some of the most revealing self-portraits in literature.' Among the interviewees are William Faulkner, Vladimir Nabokov, Joan Didion, Seamus Huxley, Ian McEwan, and one of my favourites Toni Morrison.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

How Writers Write Fiction: Constraints and Styles

Image from: jessicaschaubbooks.com
Even though I prefer writing  non-fiction, I still read fiction as a way of learning more about how writers use fictional techniques.  Be it plot, character, scene, point of view, they are all relevant techniques when storytelling.

One of the best free (yes free) online writing courses I've come across this year is How Writers Write Fiction, from the University of Iowa's International Writing Programme, which comprises of 8 accompanying videos that each feature two established writers of fiction, plus written exercises.  

I found the class session 7 - Constraints and Styles, which featured Alan Cherchesor: Finding a Personal Style and Kevin Brockmeier: The Value of Constraints (particularly Kevin's talk), fascinating and inspiring. 

I have never thought of the value of constraints when writing but I will be trying out some of the exercises, e.g. write a story in which every sentence has a numeral or write a story in which every sentence has the same number of words. One of the things that constraints can achieve is a different focus on the story at the level of the sentence - a spur to creativity - which ultimately can become the most satisfying pieces of narrative or linguistic work. Surprising the imagination into doing unexpected things can, bit-by-bit, transform the narrative into something it never would have become.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Why You Should Be Writing Short Fiction

Image from: thecommonty.blogspot.com
The short story is back! This is good news for writers no matter where you are in your career.  After three or four decades of evaporating markets, the short story has found a new home in the ebook.

Ebooks of short story anthologies are springing up all over.  They don't pay, but if you can get a story into an anthology with some well-known authors in your genre, you'll be paid in publicity!  Something you can't put a number on.

Consider too that short fiction is much easier to adapt for the screen than novels. The following films started as short stories:

  • The Birds
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Double Indemnity

Then you have short story contests.  Here's one:

The Telegraph Short Story Book Club

Here's a short and sweet story:

The Green Suitcase by Jo Senior: Winner of the Telegraph Short Story Club Competition

Links:

5 Secret Tips to Writing Short Stories

10 Secrets to Write Better Stories

Advice and Inspiration for Writing Short Stories