The Origin and Value of Story Titles

Titles are a never-ending source of curiosity, inspiration, and befuddlement, to authors as well as to readers.  Sometimes one hits you, and it is the unmistakable, gold-plated moniker by which that book should be forever known.  I like the title "The Brass Ring" because it captures a piece of emotional mentality in every one of the major characters.  Alex Corlett, Samantha Bergman, Gilbért, Kudelka, Modrzewski, Tito — all are pursuing an ob...

Why Your Own Writing Concepts Work Best

The first novel that I satisfactorily completed, The Brass Ring, came out of my first venture in the wine business.  I had sent a pallet of California zinfandel to some rugby friends in London with a UK-based import-export firm, but the venture never got off the ground because of a high US dollar and cheap imports from Europe.  However, I came across an obscure fact in my research: Colombia, third largest importer of American wine, had just stopp

The Mechanics of Showing

This essay was inspired by, and is based on, a discussion with the novelist and teacher Lee Martin at the Vermont College of Fine Art’s 2016 Postgraduate Writers Conference, directed by Ellen Lesser. # Show, don’t tell is one of the great dictums of the writer’s art and the editor’s science, aimed at extruding an end-product that breathes and throbs on the page or screen.  At the basic level, though, in the creative process, the vivid pictures that

Writing Disciplines Revisited

Please do a quick re-read of the previous entry, “Failure Spawns Discipline”.  Ill-discipline was the problem with my first novel.  The manuscript would go untouched for weeks, even months, from my own neglect.  I thought I could go in and out of the process and still accomplish the project.  Yes, I was wrong, so go ahead and laugh.  Detritus and refuse congealed in the vehicle’s avenues, the lubricant ran out of the joints and the

How Writing Failure Leads to Writing Discipline

My first attempt at a novel followed a Steinbeck binge, my next-in-the-series of fiction-groupie crushes that began with The Iliad, went through Jack London, Saul Bellow, John le Carre, On the Road, and others, and picked up later with John Irving, Elmore Leonard, Nicole Mones, Cormac McCarthy, and Simon Mawer; I’m currently hot for Ian McEwan.  That “first novel” failed through lack of discipline.  I’ll try to explain why. There had been two ...

The Motivation to Write Fiction

Since my current interest is primarily the novel, I'll start by talking about long fiction.  I believe that if you're going to write fiction, you have to respect it on its own merits.  For some writers, storytelling is an art or an obsession or a blood-challenge with which to take up and become enthralled.  For others it may be a working endeavor in pursuit of a livelihood, advancement, recognition, and so on, and getting words on a page is ...