FICTION CRAFT ESSAYS

INTO THE WOODS: What Fairy Tale Settings Can Teach Us About Fiction Writing, a Craft Essay by Dana Kroos

INTO THE WOODS: What Fairy Tale Settings Can Teach Us About Fiction Writing, a Craft Essay by Dana Kroos
Consider the phrase, “We’re not out of the woods yet” meaning “we are still in danger.” This phrase can refer to innumerable types of danger. A doctor may say to the loved ones of a sick patient: “She’s not out of the woods yet;” or in the middle of a trial that seems to be going well the lawyer may say to his client, “We’re not out of the woods yet;” in a traffic jam ...
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THREE SECRETS TO CREATE THE WRITING LIFE YOU WANT, a craft essay by Lisa Bubert

THREE SECRETS TO CREATE THE WRITING LIFE YOU WANT, a craft essay by Lisa Bubert
The question is a familiar one, full of angst and hand-wringing, one I often asked myself but never out loud: How do you do it? How do you become a writer? There are more questions contained in this question—Where do you get your ideas? What should I write about? Where should I start?—and all these questions lead to the ultimate question: Is there a secret to this thing that I am not privy to? Yes ...
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IN DEFENSE OF TELLING, a craft essay by Scott Bane

IN DEFENSE OF TELLING, a craft essay by Scott Bane
Almost anyone who has taken a writing class has encountered the sacrosanct dictum: Show; don’t tell. The late Wayne C. Booth, Professor Emeritus of the University of Chicago led me to question this doctrine in his influential book, The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961). I like books about rhetoric, so when I came across the book at my local Barnes and Noble, the title hooked me. Professor Booth is a warm and clear-eyed guide. And while ...
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SHOWING AND TELLING: Seven Ways to Help Your Writing Breathe, A Craft Essay by Billy Dean

SHOWING AND TELLING: Seven Ways to Help Your Writing Breathe, A Craft Essay by Billy Dean
“Show-don't-tell” is fine advice—unless you apply it absolutely, as if you should always show and never tell. Here are seven ways your prose and poetry can breathe with both showing and telling ...
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FOUND IN TRANSLATION: How my Memoir of Life Overseas Turned into a Novella, a Craft Essay by Ele Pawelski

FOUND IN TRANSLATION: How my Memoir of Life Overseas Turned into a Novella, a Craft Essay by Ele Pawelski
Slipping my reality into fiction was not overly difficult for two reasons: first, the story was taking place some years after I’d left Kabul. While I could picture the Kabul, I’d lived in, I also knew it had changed as the Taliban continued to creep up and in. Second, once I attributed a personal anecdote to a character, I found I no longer owned it. Rather, I sought ways to transform it, playing with the ...
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MY WALK ON THE BEACH WITH ANTON A Craft Essay on Connecting the Body to the Brain by Billy Dean

MY WALK ON THE BEACH WITH ANTON A Craft Essay on Connecting the Body to the Brain by Billy Dean
He put his book down and looked at me over the top of his glasses. "I never said that, Billy." "Said what, Anton?" "Don't tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass." "Oh, that. Yeah, someone turned what you actually said into a show-don't-tell rule. On behalf of all the writers who should know better, I apologize. If they'd read your stories, they'd notice how skillfully you balanced ...
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SHOULD YOU REALLY BE WRITING THAT? A Craft Essay on Writing Diversity in Fiction by Sawyer Lovett 

SHOULD YOU REALLY BE WRITING THAT? A Craft Essay on Writing Diversity in Fiction by Sawyer Lovett 
Compulsory diversity reads like a checklist: one character of color, one queer character, one character with a disability. Ta-da, instant diversity, just add water and stir. Predictably, this shallow formula reads pretty false. Black characters written by black authors are always going to be more real. Bookish people on twitter have been talking about this for a couple of years now and a phrase that I've seen pop-up a couple of times is “stay in ...
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THROUGH GIRL-COLORED GLASSES A Craft Essay on Gender and Writing by Dina Honour

THROUGH GIRL-COLORED GLASSES A Craft Essay on Gender and Writing by Dina Honour
Was there a noticeable difference in the way I structured my writing? Did I have a particularly feminine way of tapping the keys of my ancient word processor? When my very loud printer zig-zagged along could it tell the prose churning out was written by a woman? The stacks of perforated pages, waiting to be carefully separated and submitted, did they have the indelible pinkish watermark of ‘girl’ stamped upon them? ...
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FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF FOR WRITERS When Dealing with Negative Feedback, a craft essay by Floyd Cheung

FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF FOR WRITERS When Dealing with Negative Feedback, a craft essay by Floyd Cheung
Anyone who has written and submitted anything—poems, stories, essays, books—knows that immediate acceptance is extremely rare. When that happens, we celebrate and try not to let it spoil us. Much more often, we receive negative feedback in the form of outright rejection, advice, and/or an invitation to revise and resubmit (an option much more common in the academic world than in the poetry and fiction publishing scene) ...
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TURNING OUT THE LIGHTS: On Cuba, Writing, and the Ecstasy of Planetary Topography, a craft essay by Tim Weed

TURNING OUT THE LIGHTS: On Cuba, Writing, and the Ecstasy of Planetary Topography, a craft essay by Tim Weed
The blackout was a revelation. It happened at around eight PM, in Trinidad, Cuba, on one of those moonless tropical nights that fall so suddenly you barely notice the dusk. This was several years ago—before the loosening of travel regulations that occurred under President Obama—and the number of American tourists remained small. In common with many others who’ve dedicated their lives to the dream of producing enduring literature, I’ve had to make my living by ...
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TIME HEALS, EVEN YOUR DRAFTS: Three Key Realizations for Revising Your Novel, A Craft Essay by Wendy Fox

TIME HEALS, EVEN YOUR DRAFTS: Three Key Realizations for Revising Your Novel, A Craft Essay by Wendy Fox
When I finally picked my novel up again, there were sections I didn’t even recognize as having written. It was the passage of time which showed me that I had a bigger problem with how the novel was built, and it was time that helped take me through a final revision that ultimately led to the manuscript getting placed. Being away from, and then returning to, a dormant work helped me come to three important ...
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SOMEONE IS WRITING THE REAL WEST VIRGINIA, a craft essay by Mary Ann Bragg

SOMEONE IS WRITING THE REAL WEST VIRGINIA, a craft essay by Mary Ann Bragg
I live in Provincetown but I’m from West Virginia. I’ve been thinking of the simultaneous provocation and balm that literature, like art, can have on moments of social and economic crisis. In Provincetown, year-round residents are disappearing as more and more houses are bought as second homes, thoroughly and exquisitely renovated, and then occupied in the summer only. In my hometown, Madison, West Virginia, streets have emptied out as an economy built on coal mining ...
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EMOTION IS NOT PLOT: Using Detachment to Create Powerful Fiction, a craft essay by Claire Rudy Foster

EMOTION IS NOT PLOT: Using Detachment to Create Powerful Fiction, a craft essay by Claire Rudy Foster
Here’s my greatest fear: that I will never be able to name the essential emotions I perceive in myself and others. Our shifting tide and all its smells and sweat and words and secret hidden codes and eyelashes and old letters and emotional ephemera that moves across the surface of the human world like that gyre of discarded belongings and trash that is so large it could cover Texas and is comprised of plastic, the ...
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CROSSING BORDERS IN FICTION by Ellen Meeropol

CROSSING BORDERS IN FICTION by Ellen Meeropol
CROSSING BORDERS IN FICTION by Ellen Meeropol The main character in my second novel, On Hurricane Island, is a lesbian. I’m straight. There are also an African-American attorney and a cross-dressing F.B.I. agent in that book, and I’m neither of those. So what right do I have to burrow under these characters’ skin, see the world through their eyes, and write their voices? It’s an important question and one that has been frequently argued, especially ...
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CONFESSIONS OF A FICTION EDITOR by George Dila

CONFESSIONS OF A FICTION EDITOR by George Dila
CONFESSIONS OF A FICTION EDITOR by George Dila I am the fiction editor of a respectable independent ink-and-paper quarterly literary journal. We publish short fiction of up to 1500 words. I see every piece of prose submitted to the journal. The editor-in-chief has given me sole discretion to accept or reject any piece submitted. Here are my confessions. Confession #1: I reject nearly everything. Most work I see should never have been submitted in the ...
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