But this is where the metaphor comes a cropper: your stories shouldn’t be gifts especially designed for a particular editor. Your stories are something you’re giving the world (or at least the small part of the world that still reads short fiction)..
Sharon Bakar's insight:
Very good on the role of an editor.
And this might be an excellent checklist for you to apply to your own fiction: Is the way you’ve told this story the best (most meaningful, most fertile, most troubling) way to tell it? Might it work better in the past tense? Do you need that first paragraph? What’s the latest point this story can begin? Is the story actually interesting? (I can’t stress this one enough.) Are you writing in a particular tone because you think it will afford you a certain ‘literary respect’? A tone that—were it a shirt—would be a little too tight or too baggy for you? Is your writing true? (Not in the sense of ‘not a lie’, but is it, as Grace Paley said, ‘acutely felt’?) Are the stakes high enough? Is this a story you really need to tell? And what about that ending? Are you giving the reader too much? Too little? (Every writer will at some point struggle with the problem of getting the volume of a story right—is it too loud, too obvious? Too subtle, too quiet? This is where the agonising of the words, details and the colours-as-symbolic-resonance bit is so important.)
The popularity of women's memoirs is booming. Women from all walks of life are finding that memoirs are a way of communicating, shedding light on experiences that would go unnoticed, hidden in a world dominated by men and male preferences.
A number of years back, a murder took place near where I lived in New Hampshire that left the citizens of the state riveted to their televisions. A young teacher at a small town high school -- married, in her 20's, with aspirations to become a television journalist -- was accused of plotting the murder of her husband. Part of what attracted people to following the case was that the accused woman, Pamela Smart, seemed so unlikely a killer. Pretty and well spoken, she had appeared on our television screens many times in the weeks before her arrest, making impassioned pleas that anyone who might know something come forward to assist the police in locating her husband's killer.
You need social skills to have a conversation in real life -- but they're quite different from the skills you need to write good dialogue. Educator Nadia Kalman suggests a few "anti-social skills," like eavesdropping and muttering to yourself, that can help you write an effective dialogue for your next story.
One of the biggest problems for any writer is, considering its importance, one of the least discussed: the extent to which what we write can or should be a direct reflection of our own experience. The writer of fiction is supposed, traditionally, to make things up, but turns out to be rather uninventive: that's his third wife he's trashing in his third novel, his fourth in his fourth, and so on. The greater the novelist, the worse he seems to be at disguising his own majestic appearances in his fiction.
Sharon Bakar's insight:
James Fenton on keeping oneself out of the story. (First published 2007 but still very much worth reading.)
When it comes to sexy times in romance novels, clinical and anatomical descriptions can really ruin the mood. So it’s up to authors to work around those sex ed terms and come up with something a bit more creative. Unfortunately, … Continued
George Eliot's partner protected her from reviews. Isak Dinesen reduced the anxiety of exposure by ducking behind a pseudonym. The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louise Gluck once said she felt ''anxiety'' before writing and ''dread'' upon publication. And recently, Judith Thurman, a National Book Award-winning biographer, told an audience of psychologists and psychoanalysts: ''The anxiety of authorship is one of the very few topics on which I feel I have the authority to speak without notes, research or preparation because there is not a nerve in my writer's body that isn't anxious most of the time.''
One of my musician friends told me of the penny whistle (or tin whistle) that it is "easy to play but extremely difficult to play well." I believe the same is true of poetry: it's 'easy' to produce a few verses of poetry, as opposed to a few chapters of a novel, but it's quite challenging to produce quality poems. After all, because of its brevity, a poem's every word holds that much more weight, and must be chosen with great care. Here are some tips to help you choose wisely:
1. Narrow your focus: Grandiose themes like 'love' and 'injustice' need to be pared down to managable size. What sort of love, what kind of injustice?
2. Write around your theme: Is your poem about love? Then don't use the word 'love' in your poem! (What a bland word it has become, after all . . .) Instead, describe the precise feeling, build a metaphor, write around the idea of love to get through to the core of what you're trying to evoke.
3. Express ideas, not emotions: Poetry is more than a venting of feelings (that's what a diary is for!). Put some intellectual distance between yourself and the subject matter of your poetry.
4. Ditch the Rhymes: Don't rhyme for the sake of rhyming. New poets tend to think they can get away with less-than-perfect rhymes, and/or rhymes divorced from meter. Not so! Stick to free verse unless you're prepared to work very hard at mastering formal poetry.
5. Edit your poems: Poetry too must undergo many revisions in order to shine. Don't be afraid of scrapping whole verses, or cutting everything down to a few good lines and rebuilding -- this is a necessary part of the process of producing great poetry.
Sharon Bakar's insight:
I'm not sure of original source - seems to be on several different websites.
The Guardian How to write a modern ghost story We don't believe in ghosts, so writing ghost literature for a modern readership presents particular challenges.
There is a fine balance between the psychological and the spectral. Ghost writing must involve a blurring between reality and madness or projection. So Sarah Waters's doctor in The Little Stranger slowly reveals himself to be an unreliable narrator; the protagonist of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper is either insane or accurate. The theory that the Governess in The Turn of the Screw may be a neurotic fantasist began when Edmund Wilson wrote his Freudian psychopathology interpretation in 1934, though I believe that James did not intend this. The dead Rebecca of Daphne du Maurier's novel skews the narrator's mind as powerfully as if she had appeared thumping round Manderley. The modern ghost writer inherits a tradition of unreliable narrators, vastly ramped up by later psychoanalytic thinking. I found it interesting to subvert this by writing about apparent madness, in a girl who insists on dressing as a shabby Victorian, while the real chaos lies where no one is looking.